The Midddle East Peace Process
The present Middle East peace process starts from the Madrid Conference, which was hosted by the United States and the former Soviet Union, and participated by Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, etc. on Oct. 30, 1991. The parties sat around a table and decided in the conference that the Arab countries and Israel should push forward bilateral or multilateral negotiations and realize peace in the Middle East region on the basis of UN Resolution 242 and 338 and the principle of "land for peace ".
The Israeli-Palestinian Track
After the Madrid Conference, Israel and Palestine held 14 secret negotiations in Oslo, capital of Norway, and made a break-through. On 9th Sep. 1993, the Heads of State of both Israel and Palestine exchanged letters with each other, declaring mutual recognition. On 13th Sep. , the two sides signed in Washington DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES ON INTERIM SELF-RULE ARRANGMENTS.
On May 4,1994,Israel and Palestine signed a final agreement on implementing DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES ON SELF-RULE IN GAZA STRIP AND THE JERICHO AREA. In July, the Palestinian Authority began to exercise self-rule in Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area.
On 28th Sep., 1995, Israel and Palestine signed an agreement on the expansion of self-ruling area along the West Bank of Jordan River and the Gaza Strip. As a result, Israel withdrew in stages from 6 cities in the West Bank.
In the middle of 1996, Netanyahu took the post of Israeli Prime Minister. Due to Israel's delay in implementing relevant agreements, Palestinian-Israeli negotiations have reached an impasse.
On Jan. 17,1997, the two sides agreed on the redeployment of Israeli troops in Hebron. Israel promised to give back 80% of Hebron to Palestine.
On Oct. 23, 1998, the two sides signed an agreement on the second-phase Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, i.e. the Wye River Agreement. It provides that Israel should withdraw in stages from 13.1% of land in the West Bank in three months and return to Palestine 14.2% of land in the West Bank which is under the rule of both Palestine and Israel.
On Sep. 5, 1999, pushed by the United States, Egypt, Jordan, etc., the newly-elected government of Israel signed an agreement with Palestine (the SHARM EL-SHEIKH MEMORANDUM) on continuing implementation of the Wye River Agreement and starting the final status negotiations. The main contents are: (1) the two sides will resume final status negotiations not later than Sep.13,1999 and reach a framework agreement before Feb.15,2000 and conclude a final agreement before Sep.13, 2000.During this period of time, the two sides will avoid taking any unilateral actions.(2)Israel will finish before Jan.20, 2000 its second-phase withdrawal of troops in three stages as stipulated in the Wye River Agreement. The two sides will start to negotiate on the third-phase withdrawal on September 13, 1999 as provided in the Hebron agreement and conclude the negotiations by February 2000. Israel will transfer 3% of AREA C(natural reserves) as mentioned in the Wye River Agreement to AREA B(neighbourhood to Palestinian settlements). (3) Israel will release in two batches350 Palestinian prisoners. A joint committee will be established to discuss the further release of Palestinian prisoners before Ramadan (in December). The agreement also stipulated on the issues of activating safe passage between Gaza Strip and West Bank, the Gaza Port and strengthening the security cooperation between the two sides. Palestine Authority promised to continue its efforts to fight against terrorism, cooperate with Israel on the security issues, and provide Israel the list of Palestinian policemen. On Nov. 8, Israel and Palestine started negotiations on the final status. However, the talks were stalmated due serious differences on the III stage withdrawal of troops and issues such as Jerusalem, the settlement of refugees and water resources involved in the final status talks.
The Israeli-Jordanian Track
At the same time when Israel and Palestine signed the declaration on self-rule in 1993, Israel signed a bilateral framework agreement with Jordan on September 14. In October 1993, a bilateral and a trilateral economic cooperation group were established. After drafting an agreement on October 17,1994, Israel and Jordan officially signed an agreement and established diplomatic relations. Jordan became the second Arab country that had normalized its relationship with Israel following Egypt.
The Israeli-Syrian Track
After the Madrid Conference, Israel and Syria have held 12 rounds of negotiations. But no essential progress has been made. On October 25, 1994, U.S. President Clinton met Syrian President Assad in Geneva. Assad expressed his willingness to end the Arab-Israeli conflicts. Since then, the Rabin government of Israel began to negotiate with Syria on the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Golan Heights and the security arrangements, and have made some progress. In 1996, after Netanyahu took office, he insisted that the negotiations with Syria should restart from the very beginning and refused to promise to return the Golan Heights. But Syria insisted that negotiations should start from the breaking point. Therefore, the Israeli-Syrian negotiation came to a deadlock. In May, 1999 after Barak's election to Israeli Prime Minister, he expressed that Israel was willing to resume its negotiation with Syria. And Syria responded quite positively. In December, Israel and Syria resumed peace talks after nearly four years of stalmate and held two rounds of negotiations. However, no substantive progress has been made and the third round of negotiations origionally scheduled for Jan. 19, 2000 has also been deferred.
The Israel-Lebanese Track
The focus is on the question of southern Lebanon that Israel is occupying.
In April 1998, Israeli government declared acceptance of UN resolution 425 and would withdraw troops from southern Lebanon on the condition that Lebanon should guarantee the security along the Israeli-Lebanese border. Lebanon and Syria believed that this was to sow discord between them and refused Israel's suggestion. In May, 1999, Prime Minister Barak proclaimed that Israel would accomplish its withdrawal of troops from the southern Lebanon within one year. In March 2000, the Israeli government decided to withdraw troops from South Lebanon before July.
In 1992, after the Madrid Conference, 36 parties including some Arab countries, Israel, the United States, Russia, China and some international organizations, held in Moscow a multilateral conference on the Middle East peace negotiations. As a result, 5 working groups related to economic cooperation and development, environment, water resources, refugees, arms control and regional security were established.
From 1992 to 1996, the 5 groups held 6 to 8 rounds of meetings. In 1996, after the Israeli Likud government took office, the Arab-Israeli relations strained and the multilateral negotiations was suspended. In February, 2000, Russia and the United States jointly hosted a multilateral meeting on the middle east issue in Moscow.
China attended some relevant meetings of the 5 groups. In Oct. 1993, a conference on water resources was held in Beijing.
Middle East/ North Africa Economic Summit: after the Madrid Conference, the United States and the World Economic Forum co-sponsored the Middle East / North Africa Economic Summit. As a part of the multilateral negotiations of the Middle East peace negotiations, the Middle East / North Africa Economic Summit was held 4 times until now.
The first summit: Oct. 30-Nov. 1,1994 in Casablanca, Morocco.
The second summit: Oct. 29-31,1995 in Amman, capital of Jordan.
The third summit: Nov. 12-14, 1996 in Cairo, capital of Egypt.
The fourth summit: Nov. 16-18,1997 in Doha, capital of Qatar.
China has participated in all the above summits.
CHINA'S POSITION ON THE MIDDLE EAST PROBLEMS
At the end of 1997, when Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen was visiting 5 Middle East countries, he put forward China's 5 new proposals on resolving the Middle East problems: continue the Middle East negotiations on the basis of UN resolutions on Middle East problems and according to the principle of "land for peace" of the Madrid Conference, seriously implement agreements which have been reached and avoid taking any action against Middle East peace process, abstain from any form of terrorism and violence and fully protect all countries' security and people's normal life, strengthen regional economic cooperation and realize mutual development and prosperity with the development of the peace process and the international community has the responsibility to make efforts together with parties concerned in the Middle East region to accomplish a full, just and long-lasting peace. China is also willing to make its own efforts to this end.