Security Forward Workshop & Virtual Cocktails - 15 October 2020 - Virtual Meeting

Thursday, 15 October 2020
By Peter Fraser-Hopewell, CMG, MBE

Thursday, 15 October 2020 saw Security Forward Risk & Intelligence Forum host its third virtual meeting chaired by co-programme chairman Peter Fraser-Hopewell.

Our guest speaker was Peter Millet, CMG a retired British Diplomat who served as Ambassador to Libya from June 2015 - January 2020 where he played a key role in supporting the UN's efforts to negotiate and then implement the Libya Political Agreement. Before Libya, he was the British Ambassador to Jordan 2001 - 2015 and High Commissioner in Cyprus 2010 - 2015. From 2002 - 2005 he was the FCOs Director of Security. Earlier in his career with the FCO he had postings to Venezuela, Qatar, Brussels and Athens. Peter’s talk was - Expeditionary Diplomacy: Going to Difficult places and Trying to Make a Difference. Drawing on his extensive experience Peter was able to illustrate the challenges diplomats face, the ability of UK to influence and, perhaps crucially, the limits faced particularly if not understanding the culture of the region where the is FCO operating - and aiming to make a difference. After the presentation there followed a further illuminating Q&A session.

The usual sharing your in tray session was followed by Speaker In Residence Crispin Blacks challenging talk - the Ottoman Empire Strikes Back - Turkish Revanchism in the Easter Mediterranean. Crispin gave his usual fascinating analysis of Turkish intentions and strategy in “their” designated area of influence.

"The most important aspect of the current border disputes between Turkey and Greece, centred on a disagreement over the territorial waters surrounding the Greek islands lying very close to the coast of Asia Minor, is that the current arrangements date only from the Treaty of Lausanne of July 1923. A treaty never fully accepted by large parts of both the Greek and Turkish populations. The current Turkish president, the ambitious Islamist, Recep Erdogan, certainly does not accept it. The situation on the Turkish littoral has been tense for nearly a hundred years - Turkish and Greek territory sit cheek by jowl. For instance, the Strait of Mytilene, separating the Greek island of Lesbos from Turkey is a mere 2.5 nautical miles at its narrowest point. It is across this strait that Erdogan has been shepherding refugees from Syria and elsewhere as part of an attempt to extract money and political concessions from European countries.

Long standing tensions have been recently exacerbated by the discovery of huge deposits of natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean basin, leading to disputes between most of the countries in the area: Cyprus, Israel, the Palestinian territories and Egypt (in addition to the Turks and Greeks) all have competing claims on the gas, based on different interpretations of maritime law. Libya also has claims in the area; the most dangerous aspect of the disputes is that Turkey and Libya, in concert with each other, are seeking to control access to the seabed by establishing a corridor of territorial water claims between them.

The tensions also highlight another trend in international relations - nationalistic competition not only for resources but also for power and prestige. Two decades of full and generous Western co-operation with China have failed to soften the political Leninism, territorial ambitions, and historical chippiness of the Chinese Communist party. In the same way, years of engagement with Turkey, including its membership of NATO, have done little to assuage a resentful nostalgia for the days when the Ottoman Empire controlled much of the Middle East and Eastern Europe. We would do well to remember that Revanchism, a desire to regain lost territories, comes from the French word for revenge."

Crispin's cocktail, an ever present for Security Forward, this time was an - Old Fashioned (comment: it may be old fashioned but it certainly has a kick).

Looking to the future Covid 19 is still with us and continues to have a significant impact. Extensive discussions took place regarding how to deliver for the membership with face to face meetings still not possible. Key points noted were.

  • Basic planning assumption - Likely that there will be no face to face meetings until end of Mar 2021.
  • Plan remained that we would when possible return to the face to face meetings - concept and structure.
    • Value of breaking bread together in the right location was important.
    • Networking remained a key part of the forum.
  • Assumption the Feb meeting would be virtual.
  • July would, hopefully, be face too face.
  • Prior to this if possible after March 2021, and before July 2021, there would be a face too face social gathering.
  • Until face to face returns there is a need to deliver more than the quarterly meetings. Discussions were around.
    • Every 2 months a webinar which was open to all - 45 to 60 minutes.
    • A members round robin with a question posed, and sent out, for discussion.
    • Members only: presentation (45 to 60 mins) by a member with minimum 15 minutes discussion time.

The next virtual meeting will be on 8 December 2020 at 16.30 - 18.00 with the question posed by Alderman and Sheriff Professor Michael Mainelli. " What is Disinformation.?"