Serious omission

Dora Bakoyannis’s ongoing tour in the Middle East is useful in that it will allow her to assess the situation before Greece, a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, takes the helm on September 1. But the move, however useful, is not sufficient. The governments of Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian authority are in constant contact with the administrations of the Security Council’s permanent members that will have the final say in shaping the new order. The power game is in the hands of these five states, i.e. the US, Russia, France, Britain and China. Not even the EU, let alone Greece, will have any say over developments. Nevertheless, there is still some room for influence. Some Western members of the Security Council find it hard to communicate with certain regional players such as Iran and Syria, two countries implicated in the Lebanon crisis. The French government has repeatedly stressed the need for an Iran strategy different from the one endorsed by Washington and London while Britain maintains a channel of communication with Damascus. Greece has been quite popular in the Middle East since the late 1940s. The first governments under the late Socialist leader Andreas Papandreou built close ties to Hafez al-Assad’s Syria – not always to the benefit of Greek interests – and Karolos Papoulias as foreign minister sought to cultivate ties with Tehran during the Bosnia wars (while Iran influenced Muslims there). Greece would have been better off staying out of the crisis altogether. But from the moment Greece chose to interfere in the current Middle East crisis, the Greek foreign minister’s agenda should have also included Damascus and Tehran. The aim would not be to play the advocate of Iran or Syria but rather to shape a fuller view of the Security Council and Mideast developments.

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