On the 19th of February 2020, a meeting of the Helsinki Policy Forum’s (HPF) working group was convened to explore the key challenges currently taking place across region. The meeting brought together participants from across Europe and the Gulf-MENA region, including: Finland, Germany, Iran, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and the UK. We are grateful to the H.E Pekka Haavisto, Foreign Minister of Finland and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland for hosting this meeting and their continued support.

Recent developments in the Gulf-MENA region, ranging from Trump’s Deal of the Century to the killing of General Suleimani, have proved highly destabilising. More broadly, as conflict and instability has spread, policymakers have taken a more proactive stance towards security. In isolation, such steps may make sense, but cumulatively they have fuelled fear and mistrust between states. With limited channels for dialogue, actions intended to be merely defensive risk being misinterpreted as acts of aggression.

The meeting provided a space for participants to first unpack the different analysis of these complex issues and then explore potential policy recommendations. The meeting also provided an opportunity to plan for forthcoming activities of the Forum in 2020.