Multilateral Track Renewed at Moscow Meeting

(Communicated by Foreign Ministry Spokesman)
February 1, 2000

The Steering Committee of the Multilateral Negotiations of the Middle East Peace Process, in its special Moscow session attended by Foreign Ministers, agreed today (1 Feb.) to officially renew the Multilateral Track.

The official activities of this track were halted three years ago, as a result of a decision taken by the Arab League. Israel was of the position that the Multilateral Talks constitute an integral part of the Madrid process, and fulfill an important role in the peace negotiations. The renewal of the track will enable the entire region to prepare the institutional infrastructure required for an era of regional cooperation.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry, has endeavored for the past few months to emphasize the importance of this track among those states of the region who are parties to the peace process and among the international community as a whole. The Ministry carried out a comprehensive diplomatic effort, which culminated in the agreement of the parties to convene this session of the Steering Committee in Moscow.

During the course of the Moscow meeting, there were those who attempted to stall the process, and to limit the renewal of talks to only two of the five main working groups. However, following negotiations in which Israel insisted on a full renewal of the process, and with the support of a majority of the other participant, the Israeli position was accepted.

The Russian Foreign Minister and the US Secretary of State described the meeting and its concluding text as a significant contribution to the promotion of Middle East peace. The text sets out, among other things, dates for the convening of plenary meetings of the five working groups as follows:

  • Water – Muscat, April 11-12
  • Economic Development – Amman, May 8-11
  • Refugees – Ottawa, May 16-18
  • Environment – Tunis, May 31-June 1
  • Regional Security – It was decided that consultations between the parties would take place in order to enable the convening of this working group in a few months.

    In addition, the European Union will host a session of the Steering Committee in June.

    In his speech before the session today, Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy presented a long list of ideas for practical steps and projects in the realms of tourism, commerce, environment, agriculture, health and water.

    The Steering Committee meeting was attended by 13 Ministers. Among those present were the US Secretary of State, the Foreign Ministers of Russia, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Canada, Norway and Switzerland. The EU was represented by the Commissioner for International Relations, the Coordinator for Foreign Policy, and the Foreign Minister of Portugal. Also in attendance were the Deputy Foreign Ministers of Japan, China and Saudi Arabia. The Israeli delegation was led by Foreign Minister David Levy, and included Israel Foreign Ministry Director-General Eytan Bentsur, Senior Deputy Director-General Yoav Biran, and the Director for Multilateral Negotiations Ram Aviram.