On the 16th of March a working group meeting of the Helsinki Policy Forum was held in Helsinki. The meeting brought together government officials from Ministries of Foreign Affairs from ten European and Gulf-MENA countries. The meeting was attended by H.E. Pekka Haavisto, the Foreign Minister of Finland.

The meeting explored the implications of recent events and sought to identify where there might be opportunities to build confidence and work towards greater cooperation.

There is unease that the war in Ukraine would increase instability in the Middle East in both direct and indirect ways. Rising food prices because of disrupted harvests in Ukraine and Russia represents an immediate threat to many countries in the Middle East which are particularly dependent on wheat and grain imports. As the war continues, there are concerns from the region that the international community will become ever-more focused on Ukraine, potentially neglecting existing crises in the Middle East and missing opportunities to maintain positive momentum to de-escalate tensions. In the longer-term, the extent of the damage the war has caused to the rules based international order is not yet clear but for some it has exposed the need to renew key international institutions.

Discussions also provided an opportunity to develop the next steps of the Helsinki Policy Forum and areas for future activity.