"… I remember well the day the Madrid Conference was inaugurated…. [I]t was indeed the dawn of a new world. The cold war was over…. A new world order was in the offing.
"The Madrid Conference was … convened at a hopeful moment which enabled it to accomplish … elements necessary for the [start] of a meaningful … peace process.
"… Madrid highlighted the unanimous determination of the post cold war world to launch … new … talks between the Middle East parties, under the … auspices of the new single super power, helped by a supportive international community….
"… It adopted a comprehensive approach aimed at reshaping regional relations, and paved the way for a process of direct negotiations that started immediately after the adjournment of the conference. It was the first time [an Israeli delegation sat across the table from Syrian, Jordanian and Lebanese delegations] to formally discuss … peace agreement[s]. Deeper still, the Madrid conference … [created] hope that Palestinians and Israelis would negotiate, directly and on equal footing, their future relations as two … nations that would live as separate … states, … side by side in peace, security and cooperation. It … [showed] that, as the Jewish people formed Israel, the Palestinian people have the same right to establish the state of Palestine and that the moment has come to realize that … goal and to make it the result of understanding and even joint planning for a future of peace, coexistence and prosperity.
"… The Madrid conference highlighted a basic principle that helped define the basis for the Middle East peace process and [its] ultimate end goal …, namely, the principle of land for peace.
"… It formed the basis for … successful negotiations between Jordan and Israel that produced the peace agreement between them.
"… It created a new role of an "honest broker". Here let me pay tribute to President George H. W. Bush and his Secretary of State Jim Baker for the leadership they [showed] in proposing, preparing, convening and ensuring the success of the Madrid conference and their sincere desire and honest determination to go ahead with a credible peace process based on direct negotiations and the principle of land for peace.
"… Having highlighted the successes of Madrid, let me dwell very briefly on its few shortcomings.
"The first was the exclusion of the United Nations …, [for which we], the Arab side, paid dearly…. The [UN] should be present in all current and future endeavours for peace. It became evident that a[n] … active peace process should always have an objective point of reference. This could only come within the framework of the [UN]. Regardless of … [its] shortcomings …, the Security Council and the general Assembly, … together with the International Court of Justice, [remain] the primary source[s] of international legitimacy.
"The second shortcoming was the lack of a follow-up mechanism that [could] intervene when the process stalled.
"The third shortcoming was a concealed motive, belatedly discovered, … to move at the earliest possible opportunity to a policy of conflict management rather than conflict resolution.
"… Having said that, let me reaffirm my conviction that the Madrid conference was a landmark event, a cornerstone in our peace making quest. The spirit of Madrid is still [with] us. Land for peace constitutes a sine qua non rule for a lasting peace…. The question, however, is what should we do now?
"Certainly, we should be aware of the changing international context and the imposed change in priorities on the international agenda. Terrorism, the so-called clash of civilizations, the … debate on nuclear issues, the deteriorating situation in Iraq and the recreation of the sectarian and ethnic bloody confrontations have come to the forefront of [international concern]. I concur with the seriousness of theses problems. But I also … firmly believe that the comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict will produce a much better regional environment conducive to cope more successfully with crisis…. In this respect, I underline here the pertinent and inspiring recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton report.
"The peace process should no longer be considered secondary to the war against terrorism…. The success of the peace process is one of the prerequisites for winning the fight against terrorism. And the process has to focus on reaching a genuine and just peace. For this, a viable Palestinian state enjoying full sovereignty is a must, [as are] the removal of the settlements and the wall, [and] the return of the Golan Heights to Syria and the Sheba farms to Lebanon. Halting all military nuclear capacities … is also a must [for] regional security…. Current security arrangements could be worked out, but they - like all other issues - should be negotiated in good faith. Security … is meant to consolidate peace. We should never allow security to become a pretext to pre-empt the inherent right for a just peace, or to justify bloodshed and confrontation.
"In fulfilling the spirit of Madrid, the Arab League at its 2002 Summit in Beirut, extended to Israel the hand of peace based on full recognition and normalization on the basis of mutual and parallel implementation of the obligations ascribed to them by the international community through Security Council resolutions and the Madrid principle of land for peace. We, on the Arab side, have yet to see any peace initiative by the other side.
"I seize [this] opportunity … to invite Israel not to be afraid of peace and to extend the hand of peace as we have done. Israel should work to be a full member of the Middle Eastern society of nations…. [T]he international community should [also] assume its appropriate role. … [T]herefore, I invite the meeting to call for the urgent convening of an international peace conference under the auspices of the UN to re-launch the [peace] process…. But this time it should not be open-ended in time or goals. It must have a defined time frame with an endgame-oriented approach. We do not have [much] time. We should not celebrate the sixteenth anniversary of Madrid without definite progress towards peace. The Year 2007 should witness the offing of a comprehensive peace agreement that would end the Arab-Israeli conflict…."
* Amr Moussa is Secretary-General of the League of Arab States (since 2001); former Foreign Minister of Egypt; Ambassador of Egypt to the United Nations (1990) and India (1967). This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at www.commongroundnews.org.
Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 18 January 2007, www.commongroundnews.org
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