This is a significant moment for our neighbourhood. We are witnessing an escalation in tensions and insecurity, threatening to spiral out of control and result in untold tragedies. The four-and-a-half-year war on Yemen has brought the region to the brink of disaster and resulted in measures against Saudi Aramco’s facilities.
For too long now there has been mistrust, acrimony and conflict in the community around the Strait of Hormuz. For too long, states have armed themselves and invaded, bombed or embargoed each other. For too long, foreign forces have come to our region to project their power, not to protect our people. And for too long our peoples have suffered.
We can, collectively, choose to remain on this path of instability and tension, and await the unknown. Or, we can instead choose peace, security, stability and prosperity for all. In late September, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani proposed the latter at the UN General Assembly, unveiling what he called the Hormuz Peace Endeavor (Hope). The UN was given a mandate in 1987 to furnish the necessary umbrella for such a regional arrangement.
Iran is trying to provide a solution to what appears — but in fact is not — an intractable problem. There are competing interests and ideologies, disparities in size, resources and capabilities, and distrust among the states most affected by developments in the area: Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
To be successful, this effort requires universal observance of the purposes and principles of the UN charter. We will all need to commit to respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the inviolability of our international borders, and the peaceful settlement of disputes. We should categorically reject any threat or use of force or participation in coalitions against each other. Considering the obvious disparities in size and resources, we must commit to mutual respect, mutual interest, and equal footing in all aspects of our relations and interactions.
We must build consensus at various levels about the parameters of the Hormuz Peace Endeavour, and then collectively launch and implement it. So Iran proposes setting up meetings of experts, think-tanks, the private sector, senior officials, ministers and heads of state to deliberate on common objectives.
These meetings can help articulate a collective approach to opportunities and challenges such as energy security and freedom of navigation for all. We must also promote arms control and security building measures, the establishment of a zone that is free of weapons of mass destruction, as well as the prevention and resolution of regional conflicts. We can begin with — or work towards — the signing of a Hormuz Community Non-Intervention and Non-Aggression Pact.
We can set up joint task forces to come up with practical steps towards these objectives and gradually build confidence and expand co-operation. These task forces can develop mechanisms and procedures for co-operation on common security and regional conflict prevention and resolution. They can include hotlines, early warning systems, military contacts and the exchange of data and information. Another task force could bring us together in order to combat the drug trade, terrorism and human trafficking.
Nothing builds greater confidence than close interaction among peoples and businesses. A task force can be mandated to promote joint investments and ventures in oil, gas, energy and transit and transport. Academics and prominent thinkers can also work together to expand cultural co-operation, interfaith dialogue and tourism. Scientific co-operation could include the exchange of scholars and students, and joint scientific and technological projects.
Relevant experts can propose joint efforts to address vital issues of cyber security, nuclear safety, and protecting the environment — particularly the marine environment. Co-operation on humanitarian issues, such as the treatment of migrants, refugees and displaced persons can be promoted by bringing together relevant agencies within a humanitarian task force.
I invite my colleagues in the leaderships of other regional states, and in the academic and diplomatic communities, to join us in forging a blueprint for peace, security, stability and prosperity.
We all have grievances about the past. Iran, after eight years of regionally financed aggression and 40 years of foreign-sponsored attacks and separatism, has much to complain about.
But as the great poet and sage Rumi wrote 800 years ago: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
The writer is foreign minister of Iran