Speech by Prime Minister Ehud Barak at the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Istanbul, November 18, 1999

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Secretary General, Presidents and Prime Ministers, Distinguished representatives, Ladies and gentlemen,

Our hearts, thoughts and prayers are with the families and the victims of the recent earthquakes. Israel will do its utmost to extend all possible help to the Government of Turkey in its major rehabilitation efforts.

Mr. Chairman,

In the Middle East, Arabs and Israelis are in the midst of an historic mission – bringing an end to the century-old conflict and violence between Israel and its Arab neighbors. We all strive to take advantage of the current window of opportunity, and establish a secure, comprehensive and durable peace, which addresses the concerns and needs of all people of the region.

We view Chairman Arafat as our partner in this historic voyage; and we hope that President Assad will not miss the historic opportunity, and will resume negotiations, which will lead to peace of the brave between Syria, Lebanon and Israel.

Last week we embarked on the most critical stage in the peace process with the Palestinians when joint teams began negotiating final status issues. This will, hopefully, lead us within 100 days to a major milestone – a framework agreement for permanent status. Leadership and courage will be needed on all sides, in order to confront the common challenges and in order to make the painful decisions required for an historic compromise. On behalf of Israel, I’m here to tell

you, "We are ready."

Israel is determined to pursue negotiations on all bilateral tracks – Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese. People and leaders in the Middle East must realize that peace-making entails a shift from a zero-sum game, whereby one party’s gain is the other’s loss, to a win-win game, whereby both parties stand to reap the dividends of peace.

Terrorism is the arch rival of peace. We should not allow it to undermine our historic task. Terrorism constitutes a strategic challenge not just to Middle East peace, but to the security, stability, and the way of life of the free world.

Terrorism has neither rules nor borders. It now uses explosives and machine guns; but it might deteriorate into the use of chemical and biological means or even worse. No country is immune from this global threat.

It is, therefore, incumbent upon us all to forge an international front, and wage an uncompromising and systematic war against terrorism in order to eradicate it everywhere on earth. The international community should act in concert to eliminate terrorism.

All countries should enhance diplomatic, political and intelligence cooperation on terrorism, as well as defensive steps within their own borders. Any country hosting terrorists or promoting it through proxies should be isolated and excluded from the family of nations.

Mr. Chairman,

Together, anti-terrorism cooperation and Middle East peace are important elements in the formation of a Middle East security system. Such a system should help consolidate the peace agreements and anchor them in a broader context of regional security. Inspired by the example set by the OSCE, it could play a critical role in the historic transition of the Middle East from hostility and conflict to stability, cooperation and prosperity.

We all know that the most complicated peace is preferable to the simplest war. I believe that it is the duty of the leaders to make a concerted effort to make the turn of the new millennium a turning point in changing the Middle East landscape and making it a stable, secure and prosperous region.

We must ensure that our children and grandchildren live without the deep fear of more war, but rather with the expectation of new horizons and promising opportunities. This is our vision. This is our sacred mission.

I want to express our gratitude and appreciation to all members states and observers of the OSCE, for their support to the Middle East peace process. I join all of them in praying for peace to spread to all war-ravaged regions of the world.