Madrid meeting seeks how to expedite peace

AMMAN — High level delegations from Middle East countries, Europe and the US will convene today in Madrid in the hope of initiating a fairer and faster process at achieving peace between the Arabs and Israelis.

Sponsored by Norway, Denmark, Spain, Sweden and several NGOs, the three-day unofficial meeting, “Madrid After 15 Years”, will gather several of the former participants to the 1991 Madrid conference. 

“Fifteen years after Madrid, we need to take stock of the successes and failures of the peace process and now move the process forward and bring it to a successful end,” former deputy premier Marwan Muasher, a participant in the Middle East peace talks and a member of the Jordanian delegation heading to the Spanish capital today, told The Jordan Times.

Muasher said the “gradual process” has been unsuccessful at achieving a solid and sustainable peace.

He said the parties to the process cannot reach that goal on their own, therefore the more than 50 senior representatives from former and current governments, academia and NGOs are seeking to “launch an expedient process that will give tangible results and discourage opponents to peace from trying to derail advances”.

“International sponsors like the Quartet are needed to come up with parameters based on what the negotiators themselves have reached and implement solutions within a short period.”

The Quartet of the US, EU, UN and Russia drafted the roadmap to the Middle East process — which envisioned the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

“We need to show that people from all sides can meet” on this critical issue and come to a just and comprehensive solution, Muasher said.

Despite peace treaties signed between Israel and both Egypt and Jordan, and shaky agreements between Israel and Palestine, the core issue, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, has been increasingly fraught with violent crises. In summer, Israel launched a military offensive against the Gaza Strip following the capture of an Israeli soldier by Hamas activists.

Around 200 Palestinians were killed during the offensive. By mid-summer, Israel and Hizbollah forces in Lebanon were engaged in a war that killed more than 1,400 people, most of whom were Lebanese civilians, severely damaged Lebanese infrastructure, displaced about 975,000 Lebanese and 300,000 Israelis and disrupted normal life across all of Lebanon and northern Israel.

In recent months, King Abdullah has been warning of the potential for civil wars breaking out in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Iraq. He said the core crisis is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The delegates from Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Saudi Arabia will join counterparts from Norway, Denmark, Spain, Sweden, the US and Russia for workshops and sessions on Thursday and Friday.

Among the delegates are Felipe Gonzalez, Javier Solana, Miguel Angel Moratinos, Mohammad Dahlan, Jibril Rajoub, Hanan Ashrawi, Amin Gemayal, Ghassan Tueni, Saud Ben Nayef Ben Abdul Aziz, Ahmad Maher, Abdel Monem Said, Osama Baz, Shlomo Ben Ami and Dan Meridor.

Jordan’s delegation comprises former prime ministers Abdul Salam Majali, Taher Masri and Fayez Tarawneh, former chief of the Royal Court Adnan Abu Odeh, former ministers Jawad Anani and Munther Haddadin, and Centre for Strategic Studies Director Mustafa Hamarneh.

In 1991, Majali headed the joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation to Madrid, formed initially because of Israel’s objection to a separate Palestinian team of delegates.

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