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Madrid Conference


International Middle East peace conference held in Madrid from 30 October to 4 November 1991.

A consequence of the Gulf War, the conference was part of a concerted effort by the United States and the Soviet Union to establish a definitive peace in the Middle East. It took place only after the United States had reaffirmed its commitment to guarantee Israel's security. Because the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was excluded from the discussions, Palestinians were represented by delegates from the occupied territories included in the Jordanian delegation.

The conference, based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, comprised three phases:

  1. A plenary meeting during which the positions of the participants (United States, USSR, Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan-Palestinians, Syria, European Union) were argued before the observers (UN, Gulf Cooperation Council, Maghrib States). Also discussed were proposals for negotiations that set the stage for the two succeeding phases of the conference.
  2. Bilateral negotiations (Israel, Jordan-Palestinians, Syria, Lebanon) to resolve territorial conflicts.
  3. Multilateral negotiations to solve problems of regional interest (security, economic development, refugees, water resources, environmental protection). During these negotiations, Yitzhak Shamir, the Israeli prime minister, made no concessions to the Arab countries, particularly regarding the Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories. Under pressure from the United States, however, he was obliged to be more flexible in matters of procedure.

The first direct talks between Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the Palestinians, which began in Madrid on 3 November 1991, were followed by many sessions of bilateral negotiations, but were broken off. While the discussions among the three Arab states were directed toward peace treaties, negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians were based on a two-step formula: agreement about the arrangement of internal autonomy, and negotiations regarding permanent status for the Palestinian autonomous territories. Following the Madrid Conference, although not directly a result of it, two agreements, negotiated through different channels, were finally forged: on 13 September 1993 the Israel-Palestinian Declaration of Principles was signed in Washington; and on 26 October 1994 the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty was signed at the Araba/Arava crossing between Jordan and Israel.

SEE ALSO Gulf War (1991); Oslo Accords; Resolution 242; Resolution 338; Shamir, Yitzhak.

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