x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

UAE to host talks on regional upheaval

Foreign ministers and experts set for 'frank conversation' at Liwa retreat this weekend.

DUBAI // Foreign ministers and experts will discuss recent political changes in the Middle East at a retreat in Liwa this weekend.

The high-level meeting will be off-the-record, encouraging frank discussion on the topic of emerging geopolitical challenges in the region.

It is the second time the UAE has hosted the Sir Bani Yas Forum, held at the Qasr Al Sarab resort.

Last year it included speeches by the former British prime minister Tony Blair and the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

"We have witnessed profound changes across the region this year," said Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs. "The forum provides an opportunity for policymakers and leading thinkers to put these developments into a regional and a global perspective.

"Our discussions are both off-record and interactive, which will allow our guests to exchange new ideas and advance our thinking on some of the region's most pressing issues."

The event is organised by Chatham House, the London-based think tank.

Dr Robin Niblett, the director of the organisation, said it would encourage "frank conversation" about how the recent political unrest, which has become known as the Arab Spring, has had "repercussions for relations between states in the region".

Representatives will also discuss the results of "bespoke" polls commissioned for the forum.

A Chatham House spokesman was unavailable for comment on the content of the polls.

Christian Koch, the director of the Gulf Research Centre, which recently moved its headquarters from Dubai to Geneva, said meetings such as this played a crucial role in determining the world agenda. "They are necessary, especially if they take place in a more relaxed and off-the-record framework," he said.

"It's important to have these exchanges to get a sense of what the perspectives are from different people from different countries and see how that relates to one's own policy process.

"There's always the possibility that these meetings can bring about world changes, especially if people are encouraged to talk frankly."