European priorities for Middle East policy include greater engagement with the Arab-Israeli peace process and with Iran. The advent of a new U.S. administration and greater diplomatic engagement by Arab states offer the hope of new approaches and possibilities for cooperation. 

In honor of the recent publication of Bound to Cooperate-Europe and the Middle East II (Bertelsmann Stiftung, 2008), the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in conjunction with the Bertelsmann Foundation and the United States Institute of Peace, hosted a discussion on European-U.S. cooperation in the region. 
 
Speakers included Andreas Michaelis,  director general for Near and Middle Eastern Affairs at the German Foreign Ministry; Alan Goulty, a retired British diplomat who has served as Ambassador to Tunisia, Ambassador to Sudan, and head of the Near East department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Christian Peter Hanelt, project director for Europe and the Middle East at the Bertelsmann Foundation; and Daniel P. Serwer, vice president for Peace and Stability Operations at the United States Institute of Peace. Senior associate Michele Dunne moderated the discussion.
 
Trends in the Middle East:

Andreas Michaelis stressed the importance of taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the transition of government in the United States and upcoming electoral transitions in Israel, Lebanon, and Iran. He identified three trends today in the Middle East: an unprecedented strong connection among conflicts in the region, richer diplomatic involvement by Arab actors in solving these conflicts, and an increased focus on Iran as a regional player. Europe perceives two developments in the Middle East as positive: the reappearance of Syria on the agenda and the successful development of new security structures by the Palestinian Authority.
 
Addressing the Region’s Conflicts:

From a European point of view, the Annapolis process has not been a failure. Instead, it produced a valuable point of reference against tendencies to engage in conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Ambassador Michaelis warned that time for a two state solution is running out for Israel due to its continued settlement activity. In addressing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, five steps need to be taken: enabling Palestinians to run and own their economy, stopping the spread of settlements, reconciling Palestinian factions, involving Arab partners in peace negotiations, and contribution by outside actors to a peace settlement.
 
Ambassador Michaelis said that the United States and Europe should work to preserve Syria’s recognition of Lebanon as an independent state. Europe can also play an important role in stabilizing Iraq, and encouraging trade and investment in the country. The United States should not wait for the results of Iran’s presidential elections in June 2009 to engage in talks.
 
More Diplomacy:

Ambassador Alan Goulty argued two steps need to be developed in order to construct successful policies: developing committed diplomatic presence in areas of conflict and involving directly affected parties in collective policy making. Talks with Iran should be initiated on all levels and not only in reference to Iran’s nuclear program. The conflict in Sudan remains a crucial one to address. Ambassador Goulty drew several lessons from his experiences in Sudan regarding how to construct and manage a successful negotiating process regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also suggested that outside actors can help in developing a framework for action on issues such as humanitarian needs in Gaza.
 
Challenges:
Christian Hanelt said that the main challenge facing the United States and Europe was agreeing on a list of priorities in the region. The two sides should construct an umbrella approach to all aspects of the Israeli Arab conflict under the Quartet, but also agree on at least one peace project with the highest potential for pay-off and positive effects on all other conflicts in the region—most likely Israeli-Syrian peace.
 
On Iraq, Daniel Serwer called the provincial elections an extremely important test for political alliances and future Iraqi stability. He acknowledged that Europe has no desire to send more troops to Iraq, but said what was needed was more civilians. In particular, he recommended that Europeans take over assistance to the interior ministry in Iraq, an area in which they have far more experience than Americans. Serwer suggested that Iraqis were showing a change in attitude and moving toward thinking how they can help their neighbors instead of only focusing on how neighboring states can help Iraq.  
 
Questions and Answers:

In the question and answer session the speakers further addressed possible areas of cooperation between the United States and Europe in their policies in the Middle East. The Quartet remains a venue used for initiating talks and stabilizing conflicts, but is not a steering board for negotiations. Yemen’s stability needs to be added to the list of priorities in the Middle East and should be addressed in talks with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.