Iranian precedent can help to unravel the Ukrainian knot

In this Rossiyskaya Gazeta exclusive, President of the Russian Council on International Affairs Igor Ivanov, who served as Russian Foreign Minister from 1998-2004, explains why the global community should take heed of the lessons learned about effective cooperation in resolving international problems from the example of the recent talks on Iran’s nuclear program, and how this experience can be of use in resolving the Ukrainian crisis.

Iranian precedent can help to unravel the Ukrainian knot

Click to enlarge the image. Drawing by Tatiana Perelygina

The agreements reached between the six international mediators (known as the P5+1) and Tehran on the Iranian nuclear program is one of the most significant positive developments in world politics recently.

The nuclear nonproliferation regime has been strengthened, additional opportunities are emerging to bring together the efforts of the world's leading powers in the Middle East and other crisis regions, and a positive response from the international markets can be expected.

The Iranian precedent has been set, and it deserves a thorough analysis in order to use the experience accumulated to deal with other international issues.

First of all, it should be noted that the agreement was reached against the very negative general background of relations between Russia and the West. The negotiators managed to exclude this background from the negotiation process, prevent the collapse of the P5+1, preserve a common position and bring the matter to a successful conclusion. This was also because the goal was very clear and specific, not allowing for arbitrary understandings and one-way interpretations.

The P5+1 and Iran also generally managed to isolate the negotiation process from the impact of domestic policies. In the years since the start of negotiations, most member countries repeatedly changed presidents and prime ministers, while the composition of the negotiating team changed too. However, the political will and determination to solve the problem on both sides won in the end.

The negotiations, of course, were tough, but carried out with respect for each other, with an effort to understand the partner’s position, without pumping up hostile rhetoric and unleashing propaganda wars.

The agreements on Iran's nuclear program have once again demonstrated the importance of Russian-American dialogue at the present stage. It is the concerted efforts of Russia and the United States that largely ensured the achievement of these agreements. Iran's example, as well as the recent example of the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria, has once again demonstrated that the United States and Russia remain guarantors of strengthening the regime of non-proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.


The lessons of Iran

Of course, talking about the final resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue is premature. But the main conclusion is obvious: political will, clarity in setting objectives, the high professionalism of the participants, their willingness to compromise, the consistency and continuity of the stages of the negotiation process – all these factors make it possible to achieve success even in the most complex international situations.

The Iranian precedent deserves special attention in the context of the continuing crisis in and around Ukraine. Unfortunately, we must note that the current “Normandy format” for discussion of the Ukrainian crisis in many respects is clearly inferior to the format of the negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran. Not all the participants of the Minsk process demonstrate the political will required to reach agreements. The objectives of the negotiations are not always clearly defined, except when immediate, tactical aims are set.

In addition, the willingness of all parties to compromise and to take mutual interests into account is by no means always manifested. The propaganda war between the West and Russia does not provide even a temporary truce for a period of preparation and implementation of agreements.


Finding a holistic approach

The only way out of the Ukrainian impasse is the qualitative improvement of cooperation between the major international players interested in resolving the crisis as soon as possible. This applies equally to the intensity of the work of the negotiating mechanism, the set of problems discussed and the composition of the participants in the Minsk process.

It concerns the formation of a broad international consensus concerning the stages of Ukraine's exit from the crisis and the future of the country in a new system of European security. It also concerns a set of incentives – both positive and negative – that the international community must have at its disposal, working with all parties to the conflict in Ukraine.

Igor Ivanov is President of the Russian Council on International Affairs and served as Russian Foreign Minister from 1998-2004.

First published in Russian in Rossiyskaya Gazeta.


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