Thorny global, regional security issues top Munich conference 2009-02-06 21:32:00   Print

Backgrounder: Munich Security Conference

Special: The 45th annual Munich Security Conference

Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Conference on Security Policy gives a speech in Munich February 6, 2009. World leaders including U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Afghan President Hamid Karzai are due to participate.(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
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    MUNICH, Germany, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- The 45th annual Munich Security Conference (MSC) begins Friday and will discuss a variety of thorny global and regional issues, including the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iran's nuclear ambitions and Russia's ties with the West.

    During the meeting, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who is making his first trip abroad since taking office, is expected to deliver messages to the world concerning America's foreign and security policies.

    According to reports from the United States, Biden will seek to break with "the unilateralist tilt" of the Bush administration by emphasizing cooperation and diplomacy with the rest of the world.

    He also hoped that his trip will take a step toward improving transatlantic ties severely strained by former U.S. President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003 as well as his policies on climate change and confrontational approach to Russia.

    Biden was also expected to use the occasion to urge America's European allies to send more troops to Afghanistan to better fight the increasing insurgent violence and the Taliban remnants.

    U.S. President Barack Obama has been asked to send as many as 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, which would nearly double the U.S. force there now.

    The annual Munich forum has become one of the most important meetings, focusing on major thorny issues facing the world today. The motto for this year's main plenary session is "NATO, Russia, Natural Gas and the Middle East: The Future of European Security."

    More than a dozen heads of state and government as well as about 50 ministers, have announced their attendance at the conference. Seventy official delegations from more than 50 countries will attend.

    It remains interesting whether there will be any contact between the Iranian and U.S. delegations although Parliament (Majlis) Speaker Ali Larijani has announced his side would not hold talks with the Americans in Munich.

    Meanwhile, in a sign of improving ties, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer planned to meet Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov on Friday on the sidelines of the conference. It would be the highest-level political contact between the two sides since the Georgia conflict.

    NATO has suspended high-level political contacts with Russia, including regular meetings of ambassadors, following the August conflict.

    The conference will start Friday afternoon with discussions under the theme of "Non-Proliferation, Arms Control and the Future of Nuclear Weapons: Is a Zero Option Possible?" Introductory statements will be delivered by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

    The first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between the United States and Russia expires at the end of 2009. Obama has promised to restart discussions with Russia on START II, which was concluded in 1993 and would have reduced U.S. and Russian arsenals to 3,500 deployed strategic warheads by 2007.

    But the new treaty had never entered into force largely due to disagreements over U.S. national missile defense efforts.

    The plenary session Saturday morning will be devoted to European security prospects amid the conflict in the Mideast, Russia's strained ties with an enlarging NATO and energy security.

    Saturday afternoon will be shared by two concurrent panel discussions on the issues of Global Challenges and the Crisis of International Order, and Regional Instabilities: Transcaucasus and the Balkans.

    Sunday's agenda will feature the closing plenary with the subject of the Future of the Alliance and the Mission in Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai will speak about the security situation in his country.

    The MSC, formerly known as the Munich Conference on Security Policy, was founded in 1962 by German publisher Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin.

Editor: Xiong Tong
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