Conferences for Peace in the Middle East (Madrid & Oslo conferences)

The Madrid conference, the bilaterals and the multilaterals

With the backing of the United States after the end of the Gulf War and instead of the international conference long wanted by the United Nations, the Conference for Peace in the Middle East opened in Madrid on 30 October 1991, under the co-chairmanship of the United States and the Soviet Union. Two sets of discussions then began : bilateral and multilateral.

The bilateral meetings began in Washington on 9 December 1991. The Israelis discussed peace proposals one by one with the Lebanese, the Syrians, the Jordanians and the Palestinians (who were initially with Jordan in one delegation). The 12th and last session of these discussions took place on January 24, 1994.

Multilateral negotiations, in which the European Twelve took part, dealt with regional cooperation and began in Moscow on 28 January 1992. They then split up into five groups dealing respectively with water (in Vienna, May 92; Washington, September 92; Geneva, April 93; Beijing, October 93), security and armaments control (Washington, May and September 92; Moskow, May and November 93), refugees (Ottawa, May and November 92; Oslo, May 93; Tunis, October 93), environment (Tokyo, May 92; Cairo, October 93) and economic development (Brussels, May 92; Paris, October 92; Rome, May 93; Copenhagen, November 93).

In this first round of negotiations which took place in May 1992 Israel boycotted two groups (on refugees and economic development) because Palestinians from outside the Occupied Territories were included. Syria and Lebanon refused to take part in any multilateral meeting as long as no concrete progress was being achieved on the bilateral level.

The negotiations following the agreement between Israel and the PLO on 13 September 1993: (See Oslo peace process)

Following direct and secret negotiations in Oslo and the signing of the « Declaration of Principles » between Israel and the PLO on 13 September 1993, a new series of multilaterals on economic development of the Palestinian Territories started in Washington (October 93); these meetings were then continued in Paris, Copenhagen (November) and Paris again (December). They were co-ordinated by the World Bank.

Furthermore, from 13 September 1993 direct negotiations to implement the Declaration of Principles had been held in various places (Oslo, Washington, Paris, Cairo) and, on technical matters, in Taba. However, the logic of direct and strictly bilateral negociations between the PlO and Israel on the chaotic implementation of a Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza led to the abandonment of the other negociations. Since the election of Ariel Sharon as Prime Minister and the armed toughening of the palestinian uprising set off in late September 2001, all negociation avenues are in a stalemate.