The Madrid +15 meeting offered an opportunity to reflect on the successes and failures of the Madrid process. It provided an excellent opportunity to reignite participants’ interests in moving forward on the challenges emanating from regional conflicts, as well as an opportunity for civil society representatives and officials to interact and exchange perspectives on the common goals of the conference.
◦ We had a frank debate on where the Middle East stands today and on outstanding issues in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
◦ We heard an honest exchange of views on concerns, constraints and opportunities on issues between Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, as well as the regional approach.
There is a need to firmly reassert the spirit of Madrid 1991: a spirit of compromise and reason and an approach that is regional in scope. While the region has changed in the past 15 years, the spirit of Madrid 1991 and subsequent efforts such as the Clinton Parameters of 2000, the Arab League Peace Initiative of 2002 and the road map remain a basis upon which to bridge the remaining differences and assist in creating the political will tragically missing today.
◦ There is a clear sense of urgency in this challenge. Participants discouraged interim agreements as a negotiated destination and called for an immediate return to negotiations towards a final and expedient comprehensive regional agreement.
◦ Participants reached a general consensus on the need for international engagement to seize the opportunity of this meeting and push the process forward. Many encouraged states to convene an official international peace conference for the region of the Near East in the “spirit of Madrid”.
A recommendation was made for a follow-up meeting to explore ways the participants can move towards these goals. A steering group should be formed to guide the process. In this regard, the organizers of “Madrid +15” will be in touch with the participants.
Davos, Switzerland, 25 January 2007 – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni today reiterated their commitment to finding a two-State solution and to resuming long-stalled negotiations.
"The Middle East is in dire need of peace and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is one of the most serious conflicts that require a solution," President Abbas told the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2007. "Dialogue between nations and different sectors of society will lead to peace."
Noting previous agreements signed with Israel, as well as other peace initiatives, such as the UN-sponsored road map, President Abbas called for resuming negotiations that will ultimately lead to a Palestinian State.
"What is required now is for us to trace the beginning and the end of this peace process," he said. "Our hand remains outstretched to start the negotiation process. Fear and despair must be replaced by hope and forgiveness. Nothing is more important than peace … for our children."
Vice-Prime Minister Livni reciprocated the call to seek peace for future generations.
"Our responsibility is to give them hope, this is something we owe them," Livni said after viewing with the Davos participants several filmed messages of peace from young Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Tel Aviv.
"If what can come out of this is a promise to generations to come that we will take all the measures to bring peace to our region."
Livni, like Abbas, also envisions a two-State solution to the conflict, but asked what the best way is to achieve this goal. She reaffirmed Israel’s commitment to the road map, but said that the current Palestinian Government must fulfil its part of the agreement, including the acceptance of Israel’s right to exist and the renouncement of terrorism.
"There is a Palestinian State at the end of the process, but the terrorism must be dismantled," Livni stressed. "This is a step-by-step process but gives a political horizon."
She added that in order to realize the two-State vision, moderates on both sides need to fight against the extremists that want to destroy it.
"I know there is an expectation to see us advancing," Livni said. "I know it’s not easy … but we want to negotiate, to talk, to share ideas and to find common denominators."
Adding to the discussion, former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres said that the problems are solvable and appealed to the international business community to invest in the region, particularly in a proposed shared economic zone between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories. "Companies are looking for emerging markets," Peres said "If you are global you must be interested in the globality of peace."
Closing the session, Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum, said that Peres’ appeal to investors is already being answered, announcing that the Forum is in the advanced stage of creating an Israeli-Palestinian business council to stimulate foreign investment. "We have heard from the young people the expectations of hope … we have heard from the leaders," Schwab said. "I hope we all join the efforts to find a lasting solution."
The nineteenth session of the Council of Arab States was held on 29 March 2007 in Riyadh. At the conclusion of the session, the Riyadh Declaration was issued, excerpts from which are reproduced below:
We, the leaders of Arab States, meeting in the nineteenth session of the Council of the League of Arab States at the summit level in Riyadh, capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabic, on 28 and 29 March 2007,
- Based on the principles and aims stated in the charter of the League of Arab States and other Arab conventions, including the document of covenant, accord and solidarity between Arab countries, and the document of development and modernization in the Arab world;
- Inspired by our religious and Arab values that renounce all forms of immoderation, extremism and racism; and stressing the aims of boosting the Arab identity, deepening its cultural bases, and continuing its open humanistic message, while facing the challenges and risks threatening to re-schematize the state of affairs in the region, dissolve the common Arab identity, and undermine the connections that bind us;
- Affirm the option of just and comprehensive peace as a strategic option for the Arab nation, in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative that draws the right path for reaching a peaceful settlement for the Arab-Israeli conflict based on the principles and resolutions of international legitimacy, and the land for peace formula.
The dangerous conditions witnessed by our region, where Arab land is violated, Arab resources are wasted and Arab identity and culture is threatened, necessitate that we honestly and deeply reexamine our state of affairs. We are all leaders, officials and citizens; parents and children; partners in drawing our own destiny and preserving our identity, culture, values and interests. Dangerous challenges can only increase the resolve and faith of great nations. The Arab nation is capable, with God’s help, to achieve the security, dignity and prosperity it deserves when it unifies its ranks and strengthens its joint action.
2. The Assembly welcomes the efforts made by the Palestinian President and Fatah leader, Mahmoud Abbas, and the new Government of national union to cooperate and bring about a halt to the escalation of violence between them by signing an agreement in Mecca on 8 February 2007, which led to the nomination of a new Government of national unity on 17 March 2007.
3. While welcoming the creation of a Government of national unity, which should lay the foundation for Palestinian reconciliation, the Assembly also expects that both sides will strive to do their utmost to eliminate political confrontation and opt for accommodation, and will channel existing tensions in order not to affect the future of this Government.
4. The Assembly regrets, however, that the Government of national unity has not committed itself to the requirements of the Quartet (the Russian Federation, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations), namely the recognition of Israel, commitment to the principle of non-violence and abidance by previous peace accords.
5. The Assembly nevertheless sees in this Government a potential new interlocutor in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In order to reinitiate peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, it is important that dialogue be established with this new Government.
6. The Assembly believes that it is now urgent to reactivate the peace process and to move toward a two-State solution.
7. To that end, the Assembly welcomes the renewed commitment by the League of Arab States, which met in Riyadh on 27 and 28 March 2007, to the Arab Peace Initiative, which was first proposed in 2002. This initiative foresees the normalization of relations between the Arab world and Israel in exchange for the return to the 1967 borders, the inclusion of Arab East Jerusalem in a Palestinian State and the agreement on a solution to the question of Palestinian refugees.
8. The Assembly, underlining the principle of the refugees’ right of return, is ready to hold a round table discussion with the participation of the Israelis and Palestinians in order to share Europe's history and knowledge on the issue of people displaced from ancestral homes as a result of historical developments.
9. The Assembly believes that both Israel and the Palestinian Authority should seize this window of opportunity which could become a real breakthrough in the move towards a global settlement between the Arab world and Israel.
10. The Assembly would strongly urge all parties not to lose this unique momentum.
11. In this context, the Assembly believes that the commencement of regular meetings between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is an encouraging sign and offers prospects for the future.
12. The Assembly welcomes the first in a series of intended biweekly talks between Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian President Abbas which took place on 15 April 2007, which addressed for the first time after six years of paralysis in the peacemaking process general outlines for a Palestinian State.
13. Furthermore, the Assembly can only welcome the proposal made by Israeli Prime Minister Olmert in response to the initiative put forward at the Riyadh Summit, to invite all Arab leaders to hold direct talks with Israel in the framework of a Summit on the Middle East, demonstrating thereby a constructive approach to renewed dialogue.
14. The Assembly believes that the international community, in particular the Quartet and notably the European Union, should also grasp this opportunity to contribute to the progress being made towards an Arab-Israeli peace settlement and should be actively engaged in this respect.
15. As stated in Resolution 1520 (2006), the Council of Europe should actively contribute to the creation of a positive climate in the region capable of fostering a political settlement. The Third Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe, held in Warsaw in 2005, set out clear priorities for future action, including the promotion of democratic values and intercultural dialogue.
16. Considering the presence of Israeli observers and Palestinian parliamentarians during Parliamentary Assembly sessions, the Assembly considers itself to be particularly well-placed to pursue such a dialogue at the parliamentary level with all parties concerned in the region.
17. The Assembly recalls its proposal set forth in Resolution 1420 (2005) to establish a tripartite forum allowing Parliamentarians from the Knesset, the Palestinian Legislative Council and the Parliamentary Assembly to sit together on an equal footing, with the right to speak, and make proposals on questions of common interest. The Assembly notes with satisfaction that its Political Affairs Committee is working on the implementation of this proposal.
18. The Assembly is convinced that the tripartite forum could greatly contribute to enhanced confidence at parliamentary level and hence foster the peaceful resolution of the Middle East conflict. However, for the tripartite forum to become a reality, goodwill and action from both sides – Israel and the Palestinian Authority – are needed.
19. In this regard, the Assembly resolves to continue facilitating contacts between members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the Knesset at parliamentary level.
20. The Assembly firmly believes that the only way to establish peace and stability in the region is through democracy, respect for all human rights and the rule of law.
21. Furthermore, the Assembly reaffirms that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority should be viewed within the broader context of the Middle East region and the volatile situation and insecurity in countries like Lebanon, Syria or Iraq, and the destabilizing and threatening activities of Iran, thus making it indispensable to create dialogue among all countries of the region and resolves to facilitate contacts at the parliamentary level with the region.
22. The Assembly condemns acts of terrorism, including abduction of civilians which are increasingly frequent in the region and which ultimately affect the stability of the whole region, and should be eliminated in order for the region not to be confronted with a new cycle of atrocities, as has recently been the case in the terrorist attacks in Morocco and Algeria. The Assembly also condemns the spiritual, political and financial support from foreign Governments, first and foremost, Iran, to organizations and groups that spread violence and commit terrorist acts in the most sensitive regions of the Middle East: Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and Iraq. The Assembly strongly condemns these attacks.
23. The Assembly is deeply concerned for the safety of the BBC reporter Alan Johnston, who was kidnapped a month ago in Gaza, and calls on the kidnappers to release him immediately. Several foreign journalists have been kidnapped in the Palestinian territories since January 2006, but all have been freed, and several media outlets have been attacked. The Assembly also deplores that the correspondent of the French newspaper Libération, Didier François, was wounded on 17 December 2006 in shooting in Gaza. Recalling its Resolution 1535 (2007) and Recommendation 1783 (2007) on threats to the lives and freedom of expression of journalists, the Assembly calls on the Palestinian Authority to ensure proper investigations of these attacks on journalists and media. The Assembly furthermore recalls its Resolution 1438 (2005) and Recommendation 1702 (2005) on freedom of the press and the working conditions of journalists in conflict zones, and its Recommendation 1706 (2005) on media and terrorism, and urges the Palestinian Authority to do everything in order to ensure that journalists can work safely and without undue restrictions
24. The Assembly calls on the Palestinian leaders to:
24.1. renounce violence, recognize the State of Israel within secure internationally recognized borders and to comply with past agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority;
24.2. enforce law and order;
24.3. protect and consolidate the nascent opportunity to establish a renewed dialogue and serious negotiations with Israel;
24.4. ensure that internal differences between Fatah and Hamas do not slow down or impede dialogue with leaders from Israel;
24.5. release Israeli soldiers against whom no precise charges have been brought;
24.6. take steps to stop daily launching of Qassam rockets.
25. The Assembly calls on the leaders of Israel to:
25.1. start working with the Palestinian Government of national unity;
25.2. confirm, by concrete action, Israel’s expressed commitment to the resumption of negotiations and political dialogue;
25.3. facilitate Palestinian movement and trade;
25.4. release those Palestinian parliamentarians and ministers against whom no precise charges have been brought;
25.5. resume the transfer of outstanding Palestinian revenues;
25.6. put an immediate end to the construction of the security wall;
25.7. commit themselves to implement all United Nations Security Council resolutions.
26. The Assembly calls on parliamentarians from the Knesset and the Palestinian Legislative Council to co-operate with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in order to pave the way for the organization of the tripartite forum.
27. The Assembly calls on the European Union to:
27.1. actively contribute to the creation of a positive climate enabling the resumption of peace negotiations;
27.2. continue its financial assistance to the Palestinian people and thereafter monitor the expenditure of funds.
28. The Assembly calls on the Parliaments of the region to contribute to regional stability and to engage in a meaningful dialogue for peace.
29. At the same time, the Assembly resolves to explore the possibility of organizing a round table with representatives of civil society, scholars and youth organizations, both from Israel and the Palestinian Authority, in order to share views on the Arab-Israeli peace process.