September 28, 2010

In October 1991, the United States and Soviet Union co-sponsored a peace summit in Madrid that included representatives from the European Community, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Syria and a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. The Arab Maghreb Union, Gulf Cooperation Council and UN were observers to the talks. The conference served as the starting point for a series of negotiating tracks between Israel and the surrounding Arab countries.

Israeli-Palestinian Track
Concurrent to the official bilateral talks, Israelis and Palestinians began unofficial talks in Oslo in 1993. The talks led to the signing of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, or Oslo Accords, in September 1993, which was meant to create a five-year phased implementation of Palestinian self-rule ending in final status negotiations. Implementation was never fully carried out despite a series of partial agreements by Yasser Arafat and Israeli governments led by Yitzhak Rabin, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. These included an interim agreement in 1995, the Hebron agreement in 1997, the Wye River agreement in 1998 and Sharm El-Sheikh agreement in 1999. The efforts concluded with a series of intensive negotiations at Camp David in July 2000 and in Taba in January 2001.

Israeli-Jordanian Track
The Madrid summit led to negotiations between Israelis and Jordanians. In 1993, the Israelis and Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords, which, among other provisions, ended the Palestinian representation as part of a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation. The next day, Israel and Jordan signed the Common Agenda, which set out a framework for a negotiated peace between the two states. After a series of agreements and talks between heads of state, the countries signed a peace treaty in October 1994.

Israeli-Syrian Track

Numerous rounds of negotiations between Israel and Syria began following the conference in Madrid. High-level talks were held with the help of U.S. mediation at Wye River in 1995-1996, in Shepherdstown in 2000 and finally between President Clinton and President Assad in Geneva in March 2000, but the two sides failed to reach an agreement.

Israeli-Lebanese Track
Following the Madrid conference, the Israeli and Lebanese governments held more than twelve rounds of talks in Washington. The talks ended in 1994 after Israeli talks with Syria broke off.

Multilateral Tracks
The conference in Madrid led to meetings in Moscow in January 1992, where five multilateral working groups on regional issues were put together to reinforce progress in the bilateral talks. A separate steering committee was created to oversee the work of the working groups.

The groups focused on: arms control and regional security (co-chaired by United States and Russia); environment (chaired by Japan); refugees (chaired by Canada); regional economic development (chaired by European Commission); and water resources (chaired by the United States). A notable success of the groups is the establishment and continuing work of the Middle East Desalinization and Research Center in Oman.

Additional Efforts Towards Arab-Israeli Peace
Israel and Arab countries took a number of additional steps towards establishing peaceful relations. An overview of these efforts can be seen here.

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“We knew at the outset that the task would be difficult. We acknowledged that publicly and privately. We knew this would be a road with many bumps— and there have been many bumps—and that continues to this day. But we are not deterred. We are, to the contrary, determined more than ever to proceed to realize the common objective, which we all share, of a Middle East that is at peace with security and prosperity for the people of Israel, for Palestinians, and for all the people in the region. We will continue our efforts in that regard, undeterred and undaunted by the difficulties, the complexities or the bumps in the road.”—George Mitchell, special envoy for Middle East peace, remarks with Prime Minister Netanyahu, September 29, 2010

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