PARIS — Here in France, one learns that the first step to flipping a crêpe is to ensure the batter is cooked all the way through. Only then can you shake the edges loose, and with a flick of the wrist, flip the crêpe high in the air. The kitchen of foreign diplomacy has been hectic lately, with some new cooks — and some old cooks with new recipes — leaving the world with the prospect of longstanding positions flipping from one extreme to the other.
The new chef with the tallest hat, President Donald Trump, suddenly departed this weekend from the United States' decades-long policy on North Korea that refused any direct bilateral negotiations with North Korea, in favor of talks among top regional powers in Asia. In an interview with CBS News, Trump expressed a willingness to meet with Pyongyang's isolated leader Kim Jong-un, whom he called "a pretty smart cookie." And later told Bloomberg he would be "honored" to meet the 33-year-old dictator.
These comments stunned a diplomatic community that has been cautious in the face of Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions and Kim's unpredictability. The White House scaled back Trump's comments saying that "many conditions' would need to be met before Kim Jong-un and Trump are shaking hands. Still, that particular crêpe is already in the pan.
Another old conflict that could return to the front burner is the Israeli-Palestinian question. This morning, Hamas released a new charter calling for the creation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders. This is a departure from a policy written in its founding charter 30 years ago that Hamas would only accept a Palestinian state if it included all of what is present-day Israel.
And sometimes, a crêpe is sent airborne.
According to Israeli daily Haaretz, Khaled Meshal, the exiled leader of Hamas, said that the group "will not give up any parcel of Palestinian land and strives to liberate all of the Palestinian lands," but "is willing to negotiate a sovereign and independent state with Jerusalem as its capital." Though this signals a moderation in Hamas' ideas and a possible break from its parent movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, there are many moving parts to this most intractable conflict. A reminder that no quick recipes for peace exist is in the familiar face of Hamas' rival Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who has been at the center of the issue for a half-century. Tomorrow, Abbas arrives at the White House to meet Trump, who has touted his ability to solve this conflict as well.
The mercurial U.S. president will no doubt also be a prime topic of conversation today in the Russian city of Sochi during a much-watched meeting between Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel. Berlin-based daily Die Welt reports that Trump has changed the situation so much that the German leader wants to "look Putin in the eyes' and find out where Russia stands. "If Putin gave as much as a hint that he was looking for a way out of the Ukraine and Syria crises, Merkel would build him every bridge," Die Welt writes. "Hope has not been given up in the Chancellery — but it is not too big either."
Simmering conflicts and all-out war, well-meaning diplomats and power-hungry politicians. And sometimes, a crêpe is sent airborne. In that suspended moment of uncertainty, the world waits to see if it will land successfully back in the pan — or leave a huge mess. But whether waiting for the batter to cook to perfection or flipping from one side to another, the key to a successful crêpe is never taking your eyes off it.