MENA Summits and Conferences

In the aftermath of the Oslo peace process and the significant imrpovement of Israelo-Arab relations, the environment ws propice for the development of the regional economies thoughout cooperation. The Middle East and North Africa Economical Summit was held under the sponsorship of US Foreign Relations Committee and the World Economic Forum.

The first Middle East and North Africa Economical Summit (MENA Summit), was held in Casablanca from 30 October to 1 November 1994. Representatives of 64 countries took part and it represented a considerable breakthrough for the regional integration of Israel. Under the presidency of King Hassan II, the conference was co-chaired by US and Russian Presidents.

Participants in the summit stressed the need to strength cooperation between governments and business communities. The Declaration signed in Casablanca underlined the importance of solid economic growth and palpable improvement of the life and security of peoples in the region reinforcing the achievements made in the peace negotiations. Participants agreed to take measures to lift the direct embargo against Israel. The participants decided on the creation of a Middle East and North Africa Development Bank and a Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The second MENA Summit, initiated by US and Russian Presidency with the support and endorsement of EU, Canada and Japan, took place in Amman from 29 to 31 October 1995 under the presidency of King Hussein. As supplements to the institutions proposed in Casablanca, it was decided to set up a regional permanent economic organisation-Secretariat. The second MENA Summit took place in the same good atmosphere.
The third MENA meeting took place in Cairo from 12 to 15 November 1996. Due to the slowing down of the Peace process since the election of B. Netanyahu, it was downgraded from being a « Summit » to just a « Conference » and Israel was not anymore the focal point of this event. The Cairo declaration adopted in the conference underlined the idea that regional development to be linked to the realistion of peace. The US announced that the Middle East and North Africa Development Bank would become operative by the end of 1997.

The fourth MENA Conference took place in Doha (Qatar) from 16 to 18 November 1997. Despite considerable pressures from the US, most Arab countries did not take part. The Arab participation was limited to Djibouti, Jordan, Kuwait, Mauritania, Oman, Qatar, Tunisia and Yemen. The event was boycotted by Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the UAE, who had linked their presence in the conference to the progress made in the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Sudan had not been invited. No progress was made on the implementation of the Middle East and north Africa development Bank nor on the promotion of Arab-Israel direct economic and trade cooperation.

The MENA Summits are security-related to the extent that they are aimed at expanding the constituency for peace in the region, as well as fostering stability through development. While from an economic point of view the conferences have had relative success by encouraging some joint ventures and projects, the political objectives have progressed much slower. No more MENA Summits have taken place since november 1997. The fate of the secretariat, the MENA Development Bank, and of the entire initiative remains unclear.