U.S. Department of State
96/02/01 Fact Sheet: Middle East Peace Process
Bureau of Public Affairs
The Middle East Peace Process
The current phase of the Middle East peace process was launched at the Madrid conference convened by the United States and the former Soviet Union October 30-November 1, 1991.
The co-sponsors' letter of invitation to the conference laid out the framework for the negotiations, including:
-- A just, lasting, and comprehensive peace settlement based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338;
-- Direct bilateral negotiations along two tracks--between Israel and the Arab states and between Israel and the Palestinians; and
-- Multilateral negotiations on region-wide issues, such as arms control and regional security, water, refugees, environment, and economic development. These talks would complement the bilateral negotiations.
The bilateral negotiations are conducted on four separate negotiating tracks: Israel-Syria, Israel-Lebanon, Israel-Jordan, and Israel- Palestinian.
The first major breakthrough in the negotiations occurred on the Israeli-Palestinian track. Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization conducted secret negotiations, in parallel with the Washington talks, which culminated in the signing of the Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements at a White House ceremony on September 13, 1993.
As part of the agreement, Israel recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. For its part, the PLO recognized Israel's right to exist in peace and security, accepted UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, and renounced use of terrorism and violence.
The U.S. pledged to support efforts to implement the Israel-PLO agreement. "Not simply to give peace a chance, but to ensure that it will not fail"--in Secretary Christopher's words--the U.S. and Russia co-sponsored an international donors conference in Washington, DC, Octo- ber 1, 1993. "The Conference to Support Middle East Peace" mobilized international resources to produce tangible improvements in the daily lives of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
More than 46 countries and international institutions participated, pledging more than $2 billion in aid to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank over the next five years. More than $740 million was pledged for the first year alone.
The Israel-PLO economic agreement signed in Paris on April 29, 1994, (and now incorporated into the Interim Agreement) set the parameters for Israeli-Palestinian economic relations in Gaza and Jericho. The protocol covers trade and labor relations as well as money, banking, and taxation issues.
At a ceremony in Cairo on May 4, 1994, Prime Minister Rabin and Chairman Arafat signed the Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area. The new agreement set out terms for implementation of the Declaration of Principles and included annexes on withdrawal of Israeli military forces and security arrangements, civil affairs, legal matters, and economic relations.
Yasir Arafat's early July 1994 visit to Gaza and Jericho, during which he swore in members of the Palestinian Authority, and his subsequent return to Gaza, was one more step in the implementation process.
On August 29, 1994, Israel and the PLO signed the Agreement on Preparatory Transfer of Powers and Responsibilities in a meeting at the Erez checkpoint in Gaza. The expansion of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank over education, taxation, social welfare, tourism, and health was completed by December 1994.
On September 28, 1995, President Clinton hosted a White House ceremony at which Israel and the Palestinians signed the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip as provided for in the Declaration of Principles. The agreement contains 31 articles and seven annexes (redeployment and security, elections, civil affairs, legal matters, economic relations, cooperation programs, and prisoner release).
To demonstrate the international community's support for the Interim Agreement, Secretary Christopher hosted a ministerial-level meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) on Palestinian assistance, chaired by Norwegian Foreign Minister Godal on September 28, 1995. The AHLC agreed on the importance of supporting projects that address basic infrastructure needs and create employment opportunities for Palestinians. A series of follow-up meetings were designed to launch the second phase of the development effort. First, the World Bank chaired a Consultative Group meeting in Paris October 18-19 to review projects at a technical level. A Conference on Assistance to the Palestinians then convened in Europe January 9, 1996, where donors announced pledges for specific projects.
Following the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, on September 28, 1995, President Clinton hosted a Washington summit attended by King Hussein, President Mubarak, Prime Minister Rabin, and Chairman Arafat. The leaders reviewed progress toward a comprehensive peace and considered ways together to reinforce and accelerate that progress.
On September 29, 1995, Secretary Christopher, Foreign Minister Peres, and Chairman Arafat convened the first meeting of the U.S.-Israel- Palestinian Trilateral Committee. The parties agreed: to promote cooperative efforts to foster economic development in the West Bank and Gaza; to explore the means to increase the availability and more efficient use of water resources; to consult on matters of mutual interest; and to promote cooperation on regional issues.
Israel and the Palestinians are implementing the Interim Agreement. The redeployment of Israeli forces from six West Bank cities and surrounding villages has been completed. Chairman Arafat and members of the Palestinian Council were elected on January 20. We share the view of the international monitors that the election was a successful and historic opportunity for the Palestinian people to choose their leaders democratically. In the aftermath of the tragic assassination of Prime Minister Rabin November 4, Prime Minister Peres has pledged to implement the agreements with the Palestinians and Jordan.
Important progress also has been achieved on the Israel-Jordan track. On September 14, 1993--just one day after the signing of the Israel-PLO agreement--Israel and Jordan signed a substantive Common Agenda mapping out their approach to achieving peace.
On October 1, 1993, Jordanian Crown Prince Hassan and Israeli Foreign Minister Peres met at the White House with President Clinton. They agreed to set up two groups: a bilateral economic committee and a U.S.- Jordan-Israel Trilateral Economic Committee.
On July 25, 1994, President Clinton hosted a meeting between King Hussein and Prime Minister Rabin at the White House. This historic meeting culminated in the signing of the Washington Declaration, which marked the end of the state of war between Israel and Jordan.
On October 17, 1994, Prime Minister Rabin and Prime Minister Majali initialed the text of a peace treaty. Jordan and Israel signed the full peace treaty in an October 26 ceremony in the Arava. President Clinton's participation in the signing ceremony underscored the U.S. commitment to the peace process. The Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty establishes more than 20 cooperative agreements in such areas as energy, trade, tourism, agriculture, civil aviation, and navigation. Israel and Jordan have moved in a serious and steady manner to implement all of the treaty's provisions.
Under the U.S.-Jordan-Israel Trilateral Economic Committee, Israel and Jordan have completed the first phase of the Jordan Rift Valley (JRV) Joint Master Plan. The second phase, an 18-month Integrated Development Study of the JRV, began in October 1995. The parties have outlined a number of projects dealing with the environment, water, energy, transportation, and tourism. They are establishing a tourism development initiative around the Dead Sea and a Red Sea Marine Peace Park with assistance from the U.S. Government. They are also exploring the establishment of a free-trade zone in Aqaba-Eilat, with a view to making it an economic hub for the northern peninsula of the Red Sea. Israel and Jordan, together with the United States, are also conducting feasibility studies on expanding the Aqaba airport and developing telecommunications.
President Mubarak hosted a historic meeting in Cairo on February 2, 1995, bringing together for the first time those parties who have concluded peace agreements. The summit represented the determination of Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and the PLO to work together to advance the negotiations and counter the efforts of those who oppose peace in the Middle East.
Following the Cairo summit, President Clinton and Secretary Christopher hosted the Blair House ministerial meeting with Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians in Washington on February 12, 1995.
Commerce Secretary Ron Brown's February 7-8, 1995 meeting in Taba with senior Egyptian, Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian trade officials marked another historic step in furthering cooperation on economic development and achieved an important statement by the parties in support of efforts to end the boycott of Israel.
In its role as full partner and active intermediary in the peace process, the U.S. also continues to seek progress on the other two bilateral tracks--Israel-Syria and Israel-Lebanon. President Clinton has said "We will press forward with our efforts until the circle of peace is closed, a circle which must include Syria and Lebanon if peace is to be complete."
On January 16, 1994, President Clinton met with President Asad of Syria in Geneva. President Asad stated his country's commitment to work together to "put an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict." He called for ". . . a new era of security and stability in which normal, peaceful relations among all shall dawn anew."
During 1994, Secretary Christopher held detailed talks with Prime Minister Rabin and President Asad during visits to the region. President Clinton included a stop in Damascus on his October 1994 trip to the Middle East. After meeting with President Asad, President Clinton stated that "Syria has made a strategic choice for peace with Israel" and is ready to "commit itself to the requirements of peace through the establishment of normal peaceful relations with Israel."
Negotiations between Israel and Syria entered a new phase in 1995. On May 24, 1995, Secretary Christopher announced that Syria and Israel reached a set of understandings on security arrangements. On June 27- 28, the chiefs of staff of Israel and Syria met in Washington under U.S. auspices to discuss security arrangements. A new phase of intensive talks under U.S. auspices began December 27 near Washington. Secretary Christopher traveled to the Middle East January 9-14 to build on these talks. After meeting with Prime Minister Peres and President Asad, the Secretary announced that the talks would resume January 24 and would be expanded to include senior military officers.
In another sign of the widening circle of peace in the Middle East, following a January 22 trilateral meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Barak and Tunisian Foreign Minister Ben Yahia, Secretary Christopher announced that the two countries had agreed to set up interests sections by April 15. Morocco and Israel established liaison offices on November 1, 1994. Oman and Israel signed an agreement January 27 to implement an exchange of trade offices.
The Multilateral Talks
Thirty-six parties attended the Moscow organizational meeting in January 1992. There was consensus to establish five working groups: Arms Control and Regional Security, Environment, Regional Economic Development, Refugees, and Water Resources. A steering group also was established to coordinate the activities of the various working groups.
The eighth round of working group plenaries began June 18-22, 1995 with meetings of the environment and water resources working groups in Amman, Jordan. All five of the multilateral working groups have been making progress and moving to concrete projects which bear significantly on the long-term peace, stability, and prosperity of the region. Following are examples of their work:
-- The Arms Control and Regional Security Working Group, chaired by the United States and Russia, is setting up a regional communications network, formulating a statement of principles, demonstrating regional security activities, and planning the establishment of regional security centers.
-- The Environmental Working Group, chaired by Japan, endorsed an environmental code of conduct in October 1994. The group is now moving ahead on a number of projects involving Gulf of Aqaba oil spill contingencies, waste-water treatment and re-use, combating desertification, and environmental health effects of pesticides.
-- The Regional Economic Development Working Group, chaired by the European Union, has put together an action plan of projects and has set up a monitoring committee with subgroups on finance, trade, infrastructure, and tourism. Two of these sectoral committees are now working on the creation of a regional tourism association and a regional business council.
-- The Refugee Working Group, chaired by Canada, addresses job creation and human resources development, family reunification, data bases, public health, child welfare, and economic and social infrastructure. The group has sponsored more than $100 million in projects for Palestinian refugees.
-- The Water Resources Working Group, chaired by the United States, is focusing on water data availability, water management practices, enhancement of water supply, and regional water management/cooperation. Important initiatives include a water data bank project, a study of water supply and demand in the region, a comparison of water laws and water institutions in the region, and the establishment of the Middle East Desalination Research Center in Oman.
At its May 17-18, 1995, meeting, the steering group entrusted Switzerland to "shepherd" activities in the fields of civil, political, social, economic, and cultural rights and of intercultural understanding within the working groups. The Swiss also will act as an adviser to the co-sponsors on the human dimension of the multilateral process.
The multilaterals are not a substitute for the bilateral negotiations They are designed to complement them and to enhance the possibility of progress in the bilateral tracks. Syria and Lebanon have not yet agreed to join the multilateral process.
The activities of the multilateral working groups are fostering new bilateral and private sector initiatives. One of the more significant of these is the Middle East/North Africa Economic Summits, the first of which was held in Casablanca, Morocco, October 30-November 1, 1994. Secretary Christopher led the U.S. delegation to the Casablanca conference, which brought together nearly 1,000 of the world's business leaders with government representatives of regional and developed countries to encourage regional economic cooperation and integration, private sector investment, and strengthened public-private partnership in economic development.
Participants at the second summit, held in Amman, Jordan, October 29-31, 1995, reached agreement on:
-- The establishment of a Bank for Economic Cooperation and Development in the Middle East and North Africa;
-- The establishment of the Middle East-Mediterranean Travel and Tourism Association;
-- The establishment of a Regional Business Council; and
-- The formal inauguration of the Economic Summit Executive Secretariat.
Egypt will host a third economic summit in 1996. Qatar will host a summit in 1997.