RMS Middle East & North Africa

Canada and Maritime Dimensions of Regional Security

Regional Maritime Security in the Middle East & North Africa

Maritime Safety (MarSaf) Colloquium

(1997- 2004)
A Regional Maritime Security Project (RMSP) activity which had actually begun some years earlier was an eight-year initiative during which Research Fellows James C. Kelly and David Griffiths coordinated a regional process aimed at contributing to conflict prevention and enhancing of maritime cooperation in and among Middle Eastern and North African countries. In 1993, Canada had accepted the role of ‘mentor’ for maritime confidence building within the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) Working Group of the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP).  From the outset, this role involved an active program of seminars, workshops and practical activities which took place both in Canada (including at Dalhousie University) and in the Middle East. After the suspension of the formal ACRS process in 1995, Canada initiated various “Track Two” activities as a useful and effective way of sustaining regional dialogue. The Canadian Coast Guard, in addition to its involvement in the ACRS program,  had conducted a number of bilateral maritime assistance programs in the region, so this served as a rationale for continuing the dialogue multilaterally through a mechanism demonstrably independent of the Peace Process. The primary thrust was facilitation of the establishment of a network of maritime safety and security authorities across the Middle East and North Africa, with the primary vehicle being an annual Maritime Safety (MarSaf) Colloquium. The objective was to lay the foundations for a self-sustaining regional forum for dialogue, information exchange, technical networking, standardization and capacity-building in Search & Rescue, vessel traffic services, coastal zone management, and cooperative maritime enforcement issues.

For the story of the Middle East Peace Process aspect, see Peter L. Jones, “Maritime Confidence-Building in the Middle East,” in J. Junnola, ed., Maritime Confidence-Building in Regions of Tension, Washington, D.C.: Henry L. Stimson Center, 1996. The MarSaf story is summarized in Dalia Dassa Kaye, Talking to the Enemy: Track Two Diplomacy in the Middle East and South Asia, Santa Monica CA: RAND Corporation, 2007. For additional detail contact David Griffiths who edited the Proceedings, published a Newsletter and facilitated networking between sessions.

James Kelly addresses the opening session of MarSaf 2004

Regional Maritime Security in the Middle East

(Halifax, 2-4 June 2000)
This event was the third in the initial series of RMSP workshops held at Dalhousie University. Unlike the two previous events, the Middle East session did not coincide with another related event, so funding was obtained from the Department of Foreign Affairs to bring serving naval officers from the region to Halifax to participate on a Track Two basis (i.e. in a personal capacity). The focus of the workshop was on the sub-region of the Eastern Mediterranean and Red Seas. Participation by officers from the Israeli Navy and the Palestinian Coastal Police therefore not only added to the value of the discussion, but also contributed to Canada’s ongoing support of dialogue in that region. By chance, an academic from Iran was at Dalhousie for other reasons and accepted an invitation to present an impromptu paper. This offered an opportunity for discussion of Iranian perspectives with Canadian and US naval officers. These two innovations suggested that additional workshops in the series might present practical opportunities for further Track Two dialogue as well as for academic study. As in the previous workshops, Proceedings were provided to participants annotated as being “For discussion purposes only” and “Not for citation without the author’s permission.”

Conference on Taking Stock of the Middle East Peace Process and Post Peace Process

(Muscat, Oman, 24-27 September 2000)

The event engaged more than 60 participants and was one of a series in an ongoing project entitled Arms Control and Security Improvement in the Middle East. It was co-hosted by the University of California's Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation and the Centre for Research and Consultancy of Oman.  Research Fellows Peter Jones and David Griffiths addressed Track Two regional security and arms control issues, having contributed to other activities of this project previously. David Griffiths had previously published a paper with IGCC (Griffiths, 2000) and at the conference spoke on “Canada and Maritime Track Two Activities” describing, among other things, progress to date in the Canadian-led Maritime Safety Colloquium (described above).

Roundtable on Maritime Safety in the Caspian Sea

(Tehran, Iran, 11 October 2004)

Notwithstanding the title, this seminar (described in the Caspian Sea section) also provided a discreet opportunity to discuss in depth the issue of maritime incident avoidance in the Persian Gulf, particularly between the United States and Iran.

Interdiction and Border Security Workshop

(Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1-5 December 2008)

This five-day workshop held at Sandia National Laboratories' Cooperative Monitoring Center and hosted jointly by U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration. The purpose was to study models for cooperative border security in the Middle East. David Griffiths assisted with facilitating discussion on maritime dimensions of the issues.

Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Maritime Security and Coastal Surveillance Conference 2009

(Manama, Bahrain, 23-25 March 2009)

A commercially oriented conference organized by the International Quality and Productivity Center based in Dubai, this event was aimed at addressing challenges and potential solutions regarding maritime security in the Middle East. David Griffiths gave a presentation entitled "Transformational Approaches to Maritime Security Relationships: A MENA Case Study", describing the Maritime Safety Colloquium that ran from 1997 to 2004 (described above) and suggesting lessons and prospects for the future.

David N. Griffiths. Maritime Aspects of Arms Control and Regional Security in the Middle East (Policy Paper No. 56). San Diego, CA: Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, University of California, 2000.

______ (ed),  Regional Maritime Security in the Middle East: Working Papers. Halifax: Centre for Foreign Policy Studies, 2000.