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3. The Middle East: the peace and security-building process




1993 was a year of historic diplomatic initiatives in the Middle East. The most
important development was the signing of the Declaration of Principles by
Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the result of secret
negotiations held in Norway. The new international environment was instrumental
in creating the conditions for this agreement—the dissolution of the Soviet
Union and decline of Moscow's support for the hard-line Arab states and the
PLO; the alliances formed in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the PLO's dramatic
loss of support as a result of the alliance with Saddam Hussein; a shift in
Israeli domestic politics; and the rise of Islamist groups in the West Bank and
the Gaza Strip which weakened the position of Yasser Arafat and forced Israel
to look more closely at internal Palestinian dynamics.

The Declaration commits the signatories to a comprehensive peace settlement and
provided for the establishment of a Palestinian Interim Self-Government
Authority in the West Bank and Gaza. It allows for a five-year process during
which details—Palestinian representation, the holding of elections, Jerusalem,
the fate of refugees, Israeli settlements and borders—are to be resolved. The
deadline of 13 December 1993 for initiating the transfer of power passed
because details of the interim phase (the size of the Jericho area from which
Israel would withdraw, control over the border crossings between the West Bank
and Jordan and between Gaza and Egypt, and Israel's authority in security
matters in the occupied territories) had not been resolved, but the first steps
of withdrawal were taken in early 1994. There are other promising signs, such
as regional co-operation on the social, environmental and economic levels, and
the prospect of large-scale international investment. Nevertheless, the later
stages of the five-year process, during which some of the most contentious
issues will be addressed, still pose a formidable challenge.

Throughout 1993, official bilateral peace talks continued between Israel
and Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinians and Syria, resuming in April after
agreement was reached on the fate of 415 suspected Hamas activists expelled by
Israel to southern Lebanon. There was little apparent progress: talks between
Israel and the Palestinians were deadlocked over the issue of Jerusalem, and
Syria continued to demand total Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights and
the evacuation of settlements from occupied Syrian land as a condition of
peace. Nevertheless, Israel acknowledged a willingness to discuss an exchange
of land for peace on the Golan Heights, Israel stated its interest in Lebanon
as being `limited to security'; and Israel and Jordan initialed their Common
Agenda, which stated the common goal of a `just, lasting and comprehensive
peace' and a commitment to address a number of issues including security,
water, refugees and displaced persons, borders and territorial matters.

The year ended with continuing negotiation on implementation of the Israel-PLO
agreement and an expected resumption of bilateral and multilateral negotiations
concerning other fronts.


Appendix 3A. Documents on the Middle East peace process