Supported by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Pekka Haavisto, the Helsinki Policy Forum Steering Group met in Helsinki on the 7th of March. Officials participated from the European External Action Service (EEAS), Finland, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Türkiye and the United Arab Emirates.

Discussions focused on the issues related to the ongoing war in Ukraine, increasing violence and tension in Israel and Palestine, the recent earthquake in Türkiye and Syria and long-term issues relating to climate change. Challenges in Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Tunisia were examined alongside prospects for an agreement on the JCPOA.

Perspectives from the MENA-Gulf region and Europe were shared and opportunities for progress were prioritised. Positive developments from the Helsinki Policy Forum’s working groups were also shared. Forward Thinking’s efforts to develop a regional mechanism for practical cooperation and sustainable stability were endorsed by the Steering Group.

The need for greater dialogue, efforts to tackle growing polarisation and promotion of regionally led initiatives to address challenges were highlighted.

The Forum will continue to build on the progress of this meeting throughout 2023.