By Dr Alaya Allani, Academic and Researcher in strategic issues
At the peak of the Russian-Ukrainian war, Saudi diplomacy was prompted by Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman to ease some of the tensions created by the war with prisoners exchange negotiations between Russia and Ukraine that resulted in the release of Moroccan, American, British, Swedish and Croatian prisoners, some of whom were threatened with execution.
The success of this mediation in freeing these hostages is an indication that Saudi Arabia can play other roles in resolving the Russian-Ukrainian crisis. The question is how this mediation was successful. And what are the connotations? Will it be a gateway to playing more important roles in the future?
1) Success and significance of the mediation
The Saudi mediation was based on a kind of quiet diplomacy. The wisdom of the negotiators and the instructions of the Crown Prince helped to stir the stagnant waters, especially after the suspension some time ago of the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, sponsored by Turkey since the first months of the war. This mediation can be said to have three connotations:
Firstly, Saudi Arabia is a credible mediator acceptable to both sides.
Secondly, the release of American, European and Arab prisoners of war was welcomed by these states, which proves that Saudi diplomacy is capable of winning such complex operations.
Thirdly, the parties to the conflict, Russia and Ukraine, are going through periods of ebb and flow, and perhaps they have found in the Saudi mediation for the release of the prisoners an opportunity for the return of semi-frozen negotiations. So can we wonder about the post-mediation phase?
2) Will Saudi Arabia play a mediation role in ending the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and other issues?
We say, with some caution, that Saudi Arabia has realised that the end of the Russian-Ukrainian war will have an impact on future Middle East and North African foreign policy.
The end of this war is linked to many factors, including the guarantee of the flow of energy. The Kingdom is concerned with this measure, including the avoidance of the threat of the use of tactical nuclear weapons and the development of the new world order.
As evidence of this, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the UN on September 24, 2022, that what is happening on the Asian continent (i.e. the Russian-Ukrainian war, rising tensions in Taiwan, and the energy and food crisis) could find solutions to the horizon for the establishment of new world order, and he explicitly favoured India and Brazil being admitted as members of the Security Council.
Therefore, Saudi Arabia is currently preparing for such developments that may take place in the coming months or years and will have a say at the regional level.
We have seen this role in Saudi Arabia’s efforts to reconcile Iraq internally and with the Gulf States. The kingdom has also called for an early settlement of the Libyan issue and the departure of foreign forces from Libya (statement by Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan on September 24, 2022).
All these efforts prepare the kingdom to play important roles in the future as a regional power. There are indications that Saudi Arabia is preparing a recipe for a lasting solution to the Yemeni crisis and for serious efforts that could succeed at the last minute in devising a balanced, rational and pragmatic strategy for Saudi-Iranian relations and Iranian-Arab relations within the framework of respect for the sovereignty of states and non-interference in their internal affairs.
The successful mediation in the Russian release of the prisoners may have been the beginning of Saudi action on more than one issue in the service of regional and international peace and security.
TunisianMonitorOnline (Translated by NejiMed)