Nikolai Mladenov

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You are Nikolai Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process


Background/Early Life

You are Nikolai Mladenov — renowned Bulgarian diplomat and current UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. You are an individual of many talents, and your career undoubtedly proves it. After vigorously working to join your native Bulgaria’s foreign service, studying both domestically and internationally (at London’s famed King College), you were first given the opportunity to work for several NGOs and ultimately the Bulgarian parliament. Your comfort in handling international crises was noted during your tenure in parliament, and slowly but surely your diplomatic responsibilities increased. By the mid-2000s, a handful of Middle Eastern nations were using you as a sort of political consultant, and you continued to work alongside the World Bank as well. After a few years in the European Parliament as one of Bulgaria’s representatives, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations asked in 2013 that you head up the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq. He was aware that you had ample experience in foreign service, specifically with Iraq in your years as a diplomatic consultant. This was no easy role, keeping in mind Iraq’s recent political developments over the course of the last few decades.

Your Role

Congratulations, Nikolai! As UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, you have no shortage of responsibilities; in other words, there will never be a dull day for you. Although the reality is that most of your work will be either in the Palestinian territories (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) or Israel, it is important not to forget how interrelated the conflicts in the Middle East region are. You are expected, much like Susanna Terstal — essentially the European Union’s version of your role — to keep your personal opinions to yourself in this job. The Middle East is a very fragile, tense region, and even the slightest slip-up in a press conference can (and historically has) derailed peace processes. You are the living embodiment of the UN’s positions on the Middle East — what the Security Council rules on, is your stance. It is not as simple as this, of course, but the point is that you represent not yourself or even Bulgaria, but the entire world. Your role will require you to put your personal loyalties aside, and this sacrifice will allow you to operate with much more ease. People in your professional position who fail to do so have been removed quickly.

The UN, like the EU, is expected to be just about as moderate as possible. The truth is that the organization you represent is not one without flaws, and the UN is expected to maintain friendly relations with all of its member states, including some of the more controversial ones. As a result, you may find yourself wondering, “Well, what ​does ​the UN think about the crises in the Middle East?” The answer for you: The UN hasn’t really changed its stance significantly in years. You are to meet with leaders in the Middle East as well as global leaders to update them on what developments are occurring in the region. When needed, you may need to ask a specific leader or nation for aid if a particular issue is truly pressing. You will report to the UN periodically to provide them a genuinely unbiased and objective view on what’s happening on the ground in places like the Gaza Strip and Israel. You are expected to be as non-confrontational as possible, although you are also expected somewhat paradoxically to stick with the established UN platforms in an inflexible manner. Some of the UN’s more public stances with respect to the Middle East peace process involve opposition to the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and opposition to nations that actively fund militant groups that operate by way of terror, such as Iran. Make sure to read the UN stances on the Middle East closely!

Your Views

You are generally quite well-respected internationally, and although your name is not a household one, it is one known in diplomatic circles worldwide. You are considered to be pro-West, so to speak, but you are also a pragmatist and a realist. When asked about your role, you remarked to one news outlet that “there is no Middle East peace process” in reality. Still, you are strong-willed and hopeful, and you continue trudging through the challenging work atmosphere that defines your current role.

Keep in mind...

It’s worth noting that you cannot confuse your position with that of an EU diplomat in the Middle East. Although you yourself may be Western-educated, many of the individuals you will meet across the Middle East have no interest in your positive experiences in the secular world of Europe. Although you must defend Israel’s right to exist, as the UN has ruled, you must remember that you are not responsible for courting the wealthy European nations as you may have been during your time in the European Parliament. You are not stationed in the Middle East to appease the EU — the UN is much bigger than this. Do not let your Europe-based background and professional experience mislead you!

Important Quotes

(1) "I don't think either the Israeli or the Palestinian side - for various different reasons - are in a position to actually currently engage in meaningful negotiations...​ I feel that a lot of our work currently is focused more on ​preventing war in Gaza... preserving the consensus internationally as much as possible ​on how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved, and really working quietly to build conditions for the future leadership on both sides to hopefully come back to the negotiating table in a meaningful manner."

(2) However, there is a different path— one of ​working together to modernize and expand existing agreements,​ of solidifying the current relative calm in Gaza. A path of implementing the recommendations of the 2016 Middle East Quartet report and actively taking steps towards a negotiated​ two-state solution that is based on relevant UN resolutions, bilateral agreements and international law.”

(3) “Almost daily terrorist attacks continue to deliberately ​target all Iraqis, most notably the Shi'ite community, as well as ethnic and religious minorities, across the country, equally worrying is the increasing number of reports of ​revenge attacks ​committed particularly against members of the Sunni community in areas liberated from (Islamic State) control.”

(4) “For Iraq to move forward, it is crucial that this ​fragile process of inclusion also expands to the political sphere, an exclusively military solution to the problem of (Islamic State) is impossible, indeed it would be counterproductive.”

(5) So, it is most appropriate today, to open this forum with three very clear and simple messages and address them to all who seek to fan the flames of hatred, terror and war:

● The State of Israel is here to stay.

● It is the home of the Jewish people.

● In the modern context, denying Israel’s right to exist is antisemitism at its worst.

(6) “Annexation of parts of the​ WestBank​ would constitute a serious violation of international law, deal a devastating blow to the two-state solution, close the door to a renewal of negotiations, and threaten efforts to advance regional peace.”

(7) “The modern state of Israel was ​born out of the ashes of the Second World War.​ It was built and defended by Jews who came home from across the world, it was established to be a democracy that respects human rights, protects minorities and extends support to immigrants. ​It is not a colonial project, but a project of hope. The Shoah (Holocaust) did not occur in a vacuum. It was a culmination of thousands of years of persecution from the exile of ancient Babylon, through the pogroms in Tsarist Russia, to the systematic extermination in the Nazi death camps. The United Nations believes that we have an obligation not only to remember the boundless evil that led to the attempt to systematically eliminate the Jewish people, but to stand up and confront hatred and xenophobia where we see it.”

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