From 8th-9th May, a conference on “The Current Situation in the Middle East and the Belt and Road Initiative” was held at Northwest University in Xi’an. Presenting at the conference were the SIGNAL delegation including Eyal Zisser, Vice Rector of Tel Aviv University and former director of the Moshe Dayan Center, Jonathan Spyer, Director of the Rubin Center at IDC Herzliya and Fellow at the Middle East Forum, Meir Litvak, Head of the Iran Center at Tel Aviv University.
Attracting leading scholars from across China, the conference is seen as a major academic event concerning the important Belt & Road initiative of the Chinese leadership. The initiative aims to undertake infrastructure projects in the countries in Central Asia and the Middle East that traverse the trade routes of the ancient Silk Road and beyond. A focus of the conference also concerned the major issues facing the Middle Eastern region. Northwest University is home to perhaps the most highly reputed The Middle East institute in China and publishes the only journal in the country dedicated exclusively to the study of the Middle East.
SIGNAL is honoured that Professor Eyal Zisser was invited to provide a keynote speech. The topic of his talk was “Syrian Civil War – in the Shadow of the Renewed Cold War”. In this presentation, Professor Zisser summarized the developments that led to the outbreak of the civil war in Syria. He also discussed the dynamics that have emerged since the intervention of Russia in support of the Assad regime.
Presenting at the conference were more than 30 professors and experts, including Huang Minxing, Director of the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies and the Center for Iranian Studies at Northwest University presenting on “The Historical Background of the Syrian Civil War from the Perspective of Nation Building”, Gary Rawnsley, Professor of Public Diplomacy in the Department of International Poliitic, Aberystwyth University who delivered a talk on “Propaganda 2.0: IS, Syria and the Digital Caliphate” and Tian Wenlin, of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) discussing “The Crisis in the Contemporary Middle East.”
The focus of the presentations of the SIGNAL delegates was the crisis in Syria, as well as its relation to Iran. Jonathan Spyer delivered a presentation on “Syria: Latest developments and the current situation” giving an in-depth overview of the enclaves into which Syria has been divided and the multiple simultaneous conflicts taking place. Prof. Meir Litvak spoke on “Iran-Syria Pact and its Impact on the Middle Easy and Belt & Road”. In this presentation, Professor Litvak discussed the indirect and direct intervention of Syria in the Iran conflict and the subsequent heightened strain with its Arab neighbors in the region.
The closing ceremony was presided over by Professor Huang Minxing, with a short address presented by Yang Guang, Director of IWASS at CASS and Professor Eyal Zisser expressing hope that the conference would serve to advance constructive cooperation in promoting opportunities and addressing challenges in the region.