Madrid Conference of 1991
The Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

was hosted by the government of Spain and co-sponsored by the USA and the USSR. It convened on October 30, 1991 and lasted for three days. It was an early attempt by the international community to start a peace process
Peace process
Peace process may refer to:* in general:** Peacebuilding** Conflict resolution* specifically:** Northern Ireland peace process, efforts from c.1993 to end "the Troubles"...

 through negotiations involving Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 and the Palestinians as well as Arab countries including Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

, and Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

. It was the last conference held with both the USSR and US present; the USSR collapsed later that year in December 1991.

In the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

, US President George H.W. Bush and his Secretary of State
United States Secretary of State
The United States Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence...

 James Baker
James Baker
James Addison Baker, III is an American attorney, politician and political advisor.Baker served as the Chief of Staff in President Ronald Reagan's first administration and in the final year of the administration of President George H. W. Bush...

 formulated the framework of objectives, and together with the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 extended a letter of invitation
Madrid peace conference letter of invitation
The Madrid peace conference letter of invitation, also known as the Madrid Invitation or Letter of invitation to the Middle East Peace Conference in Madrid, of October 19, 1991, was a formal diplomatic invitation by the United States and the Soviet Union issued to Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan...

, dated October 30, 1991 to Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the Palestinians.

Pre-conference U.S. diplomacy

As early as on May 22, 1989, Secretary of State Baker had told an AIPAC audience, that Israel should abandon its expansionist policies; this remark took many as a signal that the pro-Israel Reagan years were over. After the Gulf War on March 6, 1991, President Bush addressed Congress in a speech often cited as the Bush administration’s principal policy statement on the new order
New world order
The term "new world order" has been used to refer to any new period of history evidencing a dramatic change in world political thought and the balance of power...

 in the Middle East following the expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait. In addition to maintaining a permanent U.S. naval presence in the Gulf, providing funds for Middle East development, and instituting safeguards against the spread of unconventional weapons, Michael Oren
Michael Oren
Michael B. Oren is an American-born Israeli historian and author and the Israeli ambassador to the United States...

 notes “The centerpiece of his program, however, was the achievement of an Arab-Israeli treaty based on the territory-for-peace principle and the fulfillment of Palestinian rights.” As a first step Bush announced his intention to reconvene the international peace conference in Madrid.

The administration of Bush Sr. believed there was a window of opportunity to use the political capital generated by the U.S. victory to revitalize the Arab-Israeli peace process. This peace initiative focused on convening a multi-party international conference that would then break into separate, bilateral and multilateral negotiating tracks. Although 'check-book diplomacy' had been used in the past to move the peace process, as at the Camp David Accords
Camp David Accords
The Camp David Accords were signed by Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin on September 17, 1978, following thirteen days of secret negotiations at Camp David. The two framework agreements were signed at the White House, and were witnessed by United States...

, President Bush and Secretary Baker felt the coalition victory and increased U.S. prestige would itself induce a new Arab-Israeli dialogue, but also because their diplomatic initiative focused on process and procedure rather than on specific agreements and concessions. From Washington's perspective, economic inducements would not be necessary, but in May, these entered the process with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir
Yitzhak Shamir
' is a former Israeli politician, the seventh Prime Minister of Israel, in 1983–84 and 1986–92.-Biography:Icchak Jeziernicky was born in Ruzhany , Russian Empire . He studied at a Hebrew High School in Białystok, Poland. As a youth he joined Betar, the Revisionist Zionist youth movement...

's request for $10 billion in U.S. loan guarantees, to help absorb immigrants on humanitarian grounds. This request however, added a new dimension to U.S. diplomacy and sparked a political showdown between Shamir's Likud
Likud is the major center-right political party in Israel. It was founded in 1973 by Menachem Begin in an alliance with several right-wing and liberal parties. Likud's victory in the 1977 elections was a major turning point in the country's political history, marking the first time the left had...

 government and the Bush administration.

Secretary Baker made frequent shuttle
Shuttle diplomacy
In diplomacy and international relations, shuttle diplomacy is the action of an outside party in serving as an intermediary between principals in a dispute, without direct principal-to-principal contact...

 trips to the region between March and October 1991 in an attempt to find a procedural formula acceptable to all sides. He did not have an easy time finding the right formula to convene the conference, particularly on the issue of Palestinian representation. In light of Shamir's pro-settlement policy, Palestinians and many Arab governments viewed the request for Israeli loan guarantees as a test of America's credibility as mediator. In addition to Arab opposition, the Bush administration had its own problems with the request, because there was residual ill-will following Israel's refusal to verify whether the previous (October 1990) $400 million loan guarantee was used for settlement expansion; the administration did not see populating settlements as a humanitarian issue.

Throughout the run-up to the Madrid conference, Israel's loan guarantee request remained a sore point. By early September 1991, the Administration asked Congress for a 120-day delay on the loan guarantees. This postponement was seen as a way to get to Madrid, to buy time, and to soften the domestic debate. If a settlement freeze could not be obtained from Israel, Bush and Baker wanted the issue off the agenda. "[The United States] must do everything we can to give peace a chance," Bush said in requesting the delay from Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

. Israeli leaders opposed linking the loans to the political process; Shamir and the pro-Israel lobby in Washington decided to push forward with their request despite Bush's opposition. Israel and its supporters in Washington began a campaign to support the loan request, but Bush, with a 70 percent job approval rating, would not back down. By mid-September, U.S.-Israel relations were tense; pro-Israel groups challenged the president and lobbied against the delay. Shamir had originally believed he could outflank Bush and Baker and turn to U.S. public opinion and the pro-Israel lobby. However, the U.S. Jewish community—though visibly mobilized on this issue—was not united in taking on the Administration, and Shamir soon backed away from a direct confrontation. With Bush's approval ratings high, and his unambiguous show of determination and will, he gained congressional support for the delay; following that, the diplomatic pieces soon fell into place and the parties convened in Madrid at the end of October.

The conference

The Palestinian
Palestinian people
The Palestinian people, also referred to as Palestinians or Palestinian Arabs , are an Arabic-speaking people with origins in Palestine. Despite various wars and exoduses, roughly one third of the world's Palestinian population continues to reside in the area encompassing the West Bank, the Gaza...

 team, because of Israeli objections, was initially formally a part of a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation and consisted of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza without open PLO associations like Saeb Erekat
Saeb Erekat
Saeb Muhammad Salih Erekat Saeb Muhammad Salih Erekat Saeb Muhammad Salih Erekat (also Erakat; Ṣāʼib ʻUrayqāt or ʻRēqāt, born April 28, 1955 in Jordanian controlled East Jerusalem was the Palestinian chief of the PLO Steering and Monitoring Committee until 12 February 2011...

 and Haidar Abdel-Shafi
Haidar Abdel-Shafi
Haidar Abdel-Shafi was a Palestinian physician, community leader and political leader who was the head of the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid Conference of 1991.- Background :...

, the head of the delegation. However, the delegation was in constant communication with the PLO leadership in Tunis
Tunis is the capital of both the Tunisian Republic and the Tunis Governorate. It is Tunisia's largest city, with a population of 728,453 as of 2004; the greater metropolitan area holds some 2,412,500 inhabitants....

. Over Israeli objections, the PLO dispatched an unofficial "advisory delegation," headed by Faisal Husseini
Faisal Husseini
Faisal Abdel Qader Al-Husseini was a Palestinian politician who was considered a possible future leader of the Palestinian people....

 to act as a liaison.

The purpose of the conference was to serve as an opening forum for the participants and had no power to impose solutions or veto agreements. It inaugurated negotiations on both bilateral and multilateral tracks that also involved the international community. The Syrian and Lebanese negotiators agreed on a common strategy.

The first-ever public bilateral talks between Israel and its neighbors (except Egypt) were aimed at achieving peace treaties between the 3 Arab states and Israel, while the talks with the Palestinians were based on a 2-stage formula, the first consisting of negotiating interim self-government arrangements, to be followed by permanent status negotiations. (This formula was essentially followed in the later Oslo Accords
Oslo Accords
The Oslo Accords, officially called the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements or Declaration of Principles , was an attempt to resolve the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict...

.) They opened immediately following the conference on November 3, 1991 in Madrid, and were followed by over a dozen formal rounds in Washington, DC from December 9, 1991 to January 24, 1994

The multilateral negotiations, which opened in Moscow on January 28, 1992, were held in 5 separate forums each focused on a major issue - water, environment, arms control, refugees and economic development, and were later held, until November 1993 throughout the world including European capitals and the Middle East. At first, Israel refused to take part in the refugee and economic meetings as Palestinians from outside the West Bank and Gaza were present. Syria and Lebanon refused to take part in multilateral meetings as long as there was no concrete progress on the bilateral level.

Formal talks in the multilateral track, which had been frozen for several years, resumed on January 31, 2000 with a meeting of the Steering Committee in Moscow, to be followed by meetings of the working group
Working group
A working group is an interdisciplinary collaboration of researchers working on new research activities that would be difficult to develop under traditional funding mechanisms . The lifespan of the WG can last anywhere between a few months and several years...


The Israeli-Jordan negotiations, which emanated from the Madrid conference, eventually led to a peace treaty
Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace
The Israel–Jordan Treaty of Peace was signed in 1994. The treaty normalized relations between the two countries and resolved territorial disputes. The conflict had cost roughly US$18.3 billion...

 in 1994. The Israeli-Syrian negotiations included series of follow-on meetings, which according to some reports, came quite close, but failed to result in a peace treaty.

The bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations did not go well under the Shamir government. The Madrid negotiations were later upstaged and eventually replaced by initially secret and illegal negotiations (according to Israeli law at the time) following the 1992 Israeli election
Israeli legislative election, 1992
Elections for the thirteenth Knesset were held in Israel on 23 June 1992. The result was a victory for the left, led by Yitzhak Rabin's Labor Party, though their win was at least partially due to several small right-wing parties narrowly failing to cross the electoral threshold and thus effectively...

, during which Rabin
Yitzhak Rabin
' was an Israeli politician, statesman and general. He was the fifth Prime Minister of Israel, serving two terms in office, 1974–77 and 1992 until his assassination in 1995....

 and Labor pledged to end Shamir's settlement policy and reformulate national priorities. These independent negotiations eventually led to the exchange of letters and the subsequent signing of the Declaration of Principles
Oslo Accords
The Oslo Accords, officially called the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements or Declaration of Principles , was an attempt to resolve the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict...

, on the lawn of the White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

 on 13 September 1993. While the principles were essentially based on terms which the Palestinian negotiators in the Madrid round had earlier rejected, the negotiating positions and their negotiating partner had changed.

The Impact of the Madrid Peace Conference

In the negotiations leading to Madrid, Israel made revocation of UN Resolution 3379 a condition of its participation in the conference; this was accomplished shortly thereafter, with the passage of Resolution 46/86, on December 16, 1991. Israel also cites, as a major benefit of the conference and the peace process, the greatly increased number of countries which recognize and have some degree of diplomatic relations with it - nearly doubling - in particular citing the major powers of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 and India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and some even in the Arab world, like Oman
Oman , officially called the Sultanate of Oman , is an Arab state in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the...

, Qatar
Qatar , also known as the State of Qatar or locally Dawlat Qaṭar, is a sovereign Arab state, located in the Middle East, occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeasterly coast of the much larger Arabian Peninsula. Its sole land border is with Saudi Arabia to the south, with the rest of its...

, Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

, Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

 and Mauritania
Mauritania is a country in the Maghreb and West Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, by Western Sahara in the north, by Algeria in the northeast, by Mali in the east and southeast, and by Senegal in the southwest...

, along with the decline of the Arab boycott and economic relations with some of the Arab countries.

In The Palestine-Israel Conflict: A Basic Introduction, Gregory Harms and Todd Ferry argue that ‘the symbolic significance of the Madrid conference far outweighed its accomplishments, which were thin indeed.’
Nevertheless, an example had been made and a future model had been laid down. Moreover, the Madrid conference represents the first time all these countries had been gathered “face-to-face”. Indeed, ‘from Rhodes in 1949 to Madrid in 1991’ attempts to bring about peace in the region had failed. However, although the conference led to few practical and legal solutions, the Madrid peace conference of 1991 still signifies a remarkable “twist in events” as the Palestine question was at long last dealt with. Yet because the Madrid Conference was based on the idea of ‘abandoning the dynamics of confrontation’, but more importantly because what ensued, through the Oslo Accords
Oslo Accords
The Oslo Accords, officially called the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements or Declaration of Principles , was an attempt to resolve the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict...

 were isolated arrangements on disorganised technicalities such as crossings, borders, security, prisoners and so on, numerous of people are nowadays still ‘opposed to that ground- breaking leap’ which the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991 represents to many. On the other hand, in 2002 the German foreign minister Joschka Fischer, while voicing his opinion on a proposed future action of Israeli withdrawal from recently occupied towns followed by a declaration of a Palestinian state, argued:

"The idea is not to go backwards but to return to the basic formula that was established in Madrid: the exchange of land for peace,"

At the end of the Madrid conference all participating countries appeared hopeful that the conference had resulted in a future road-map for reconciliation. The closing remarks presented below illustrate this hopeful sentiment:

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir , 1 November 1991

“With an open heart, we call on the Arab leaders to take the courageous step and respond to our outstretched hand in peace”

Head of the Palestinian Delegation, Haydar Abd al-Shafi, 1 November 1991

“To the cosponsors and to the international community that seeks the achievement of a just peace in the Middle East, you have given us a fair hearing. You cared enough to listen and for that we thank you. Thank you.”

American Secretary of State, James Baker seemed to have accomplished what he had initially wished for: peace negotiations which would lead to closer cooperation and reconciliation between the countries of the Middle East. However, Middle East scholar Louise Fawcett argues that by 1993 when Clinton came to office ‘the initial momentum of Madrid had flagged, and the subsequent bilateral talks in Washington between Israel and its neighbours had got bogged down.' Thus, the Madrid conference was not to be the conference which would create peace in the Middle East
Environmental peacebuilding
Peacebuilding is both the theory and practice of identifying the conditions that can lead to a sustainable peace between those who have previously been adversaries, and assisting adversaries to move towards a sustainable peace. Environmental peacebuilding examines and advocates environmental...

, albeit the first step towards greater understanding and better communication among Middle Eastern countries.

Arab-Israeli peace diplomacy and treaties

  • Faisal-Weizmann Agreement (1919)
    Faisal-Weizmann Agreement
    The Faisal–Weizmann Agreement was signed on January 3, 1919, by Emir Feisal , who was for a short time King of the Arab Kingdom of Syria or Greater Syria in 1920, and was King of the Kingdom of Iraq from August 1921 to 1933, and Chaim Weizmann as part of the Paris Peace Conference, 1919 settling...

  • Paris Peace Conference, 1919
    Paris Peace Conference, 1919
    The Paris Peace Conference was the meeting of the Allied victors following the end of World War I to set the peace terms for the defeated Central Powers following the armistices of 1918. It took place in Paris in 1919 and involved diplomats from more than 32 countries and nationalities...

  • 1949 Armistice Agreements
    1949 Armistice Agreements
    The 1949 Armistice Agreements are a set of agreements signed during 1949 between Israel and neighboring Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. The agreements ended the official hostilities of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and established armistice lines between Israeli forces and the forces in...

  • Sinai Interim Agreement
    Sinai Interim Agreement
    The Sinai Interim Agreement, also known as the Sinai II Agreement, was a diplomatic agreement signed by Egypt and Israel on September 4, 1975...

  • Camp David Accords (1978)
  • Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty (1979)
    Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty
    The 1979 Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty was signed in Washington, D.C. on the 26th of March 1979, following the 1978 Camp David Accords, which were signed by Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and were witnessed by United States President Jimmy Carter.The peace...

  • Madrid Conference of 1991
  • Oslo Accords (1993)
    Oslo Accords
    The Oslo Accords, officially called the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements or Declaration of Principles , was an attempt to resolve the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict...

  • Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace (1994)
    Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace
    The Israel–Jordan Treaty of Peace was signed in 1994. The treaty normalized relations between the two countries and resolved territorial disputes. The conflict had cost roughly US$18.3 billion...

  • Wye River Memorandum (1998)
    Wye River Memorandum
    The Wye River Memorandum was an agreement negotiated between Israel and the Palestine Authority to implement the earlier Interim Agreement of 28 September, 1995...

  • Camp David 2000 Summit
    Camp David 2000 Summit
    The Middle East Peace Summit at Camp David of July 2000 took place between United States President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat...

  • Taba Summit
    Taba Summit
    The Taba summit were talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, held from January 21 to January 27, 2001 at Taba in the Sinai peninsula...

  • Peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
    Peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
    The peace process in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict has taken shape over the years, despite the ongoing violence in the Middle East and an "all or nothing" attitude about a lasting peace, "which prevailed for most of the twentieth century"...

  • Projects working for peace among Israelis and Arabs
    Projects working for peace among Israelis and Arabs
    Projects working for peace among Arabs and Israelis have been operating for years in different fields.- Policy groups:Organizations or institutions which address and analyze policy issues in a wide range of areas...

  • List of Middle East peace proposals
  • International law and the Arab-Israeli conflict
    International law and the Arab-Israeli conflict
    There is a broad international consensus that the actions of the nations involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict violate prohibitions contained in international law. However, this legality is disputed by some of the nations involved...

  • Road map for peace
    Road map for peace
    The roadmap for peace or "road map" for peace is a plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict proposed by a "quartet" of international entities: the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations. The principles of the plan, originally drafted by U.S. Foreign Service...

  • Beirut Summit 2002

See also

  • List of Soviet Union–United States summits (1943 to 1991)

External links

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