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Middle East/North Africa Economic Summit

2000/11/15
In 1991, after the convocation of Madrid Peace Conference, great progress has been made in the Middle East peace process. Palestine and Jordan signed peace agreements with Israel in succession and significant changes took place in the Arab-Israeli relations. Most countries in the Middle East and North African region wished to take this opportunity to enhance mutual economic exchange and cooperation, to invigorate national economy and to promote the development of the regional economy. Under such circumstances, the Middle East/North Africa Economic Summit was held under the sponsorship of U.S. Foreign Relations Committee and the World Economic Forum.


I. Casablanca Summit


The First Middle East/North Africa (MENA) Economic Summit was convened in Casablanca of Morocco from Oct.30 to Nov.1,1994, under the presidency of King Hassan II of Morocco and the Honorary co-chairs of the U.S. and Russian Presidents. Totally around 2,000 people attended the Summit, among whom were representatives from 61 countries, including the Heads of States of 10 countries, Foreign or other Ministers of 19 countries, the Chairman of European Union, representative of the UN Secretary General, the GATT Director-General, Vice President of World Bank, Deputy Executive Director of International Monetary Fund, Chairman of Arab Economic and Social Development Fund and more than 1,100 business leaders from all over the world. Syria and Lebanon boycotted the Summit. The theme of the Summit was "Middle East and North Africa: the New Partner of Peace and Economic Development". Four Plenary Sessions were held during the Summit and thematic discussions on regional environment for investment, capital market, infrastructure, tourism, water resource, agriculture and exploitation of Jordan Valley were also held. The Casablanca Declaration adopted in the Summit stressed that cooperation between governments and business communities should be strengthened, the achievements made in the peace negotiations needed to be powerfully reinforced by solid economic growth and palpable improvement of the life and security of the peoples in this Region, peace process must be accelerated and there must be an ongoing process to translate the deliberations of Casablanca into concrete steps to advance the twin goals of peace and economic development. The main positive results of this Summit were that the participants noted favorably the decision of the Council for Cooperation of the Gulf States regarding the lifting of the secondary and tertiary aspects of the boycott against Israel, agreed to take measures to lift the direct embargo against Israel, and approved the establishment of four regional organizations: 1. Middle East and North Africa Development Bank and calling for a group of experts to examine the different options for funding mechanisms including the creation of the Bank. 2. A Regional Tourist Board. 3. A Private Sector Regional Chamber of Commerce and Business Council. 4. A Steering Committee and an Executive Secretariat. Mr. Tian Zengpei, Deputy Chinese Foreign Minister headed the Chinese delegation for the first Summit and delivered a speech reaffirming China's support for the Middle East peace process and for the countries in this Region in their efforts for regional economic cooperation. He also expressed that China would actively develop its economic cooperation with regional countries and strive for the prosperity and stability in this region.


II. Amman Summit


The Second Middle East/North Africa Economic Summit was jointly initiated by U.S. and Russian Federation with the support and endorsement of EU, Canada and Japan and was held from Oct.29 to 31, 1995 in Amman, capital of Jordan under the presidency of King Hussein of Jordan. Some 1,400 people attended this Summit, among whom were official delegations from 54 countries, including the Heads of States of 7 countries, 80 Ministers, Secretary General of Arab League, Deputy Director-General of World Trade Organization, officials from 12 international and regional organizations including International Monetary Fund, World Bank and representatives of over 400 companies and enterprises from all over the world. Seven Plenary Sessions were held during the Summit as well as 15 thematic discussions on regional environment for investment, regional trade bloc, economic and trade policy, human resource, privatization, stock market, special economic zone, capital market, the role of small and medium-sized enterprises, tourism, commercial aids and water resource, etc. Besides, a dozen of project exchange meetings were also held among participating countries. The Amman Declaration adopted in the Summit emphasized the promotion of increase of investment in the Region by the private sector, enhancement of cooperation between the public and private sector for the above purpose and strengthening of regional cooperation and development. During the Summit, agreements have been reached on the establishment of Middle East and North Africa Development Bank, Regional Tourist Board and Industrial Board and activating of the Executive Secretariat of the Summit.1. Establishment of Middle East and North Africa Economic Cooperation and Development Bank in Cairo in order to promote the development of private sector, to support regional infrastructure projects and to provide a forum for the improvement of regional economic cooperation. 2. Establishment of Regional Tourist Board which consists of representatives from both public and private sector and Middle East-Mediterranean Travel and Tourist Association to push forward tourism and transform the whole region into a unique tourist attraction. 3. Setting up of Regional Chamber of Commerce to further trade and cooperation among the private sectors of regional countries. 4. Formal Establishment of the Executive Secretariat for the Summit in Rabat to advance the development of the partnership between public and private sector and to share information and expand investment in the Region by the private sector. As supplements to the regional organizations proposed in Casablanca Summit, the coordination committee of multilateral peace negotiation decided to set up a regional permanent economic organization-Secretariat for the Supervising Committee of the Working Group for Regional Economic Development to strengthen economic cooperation between Middle East and North Africa. Mr. Tian Zengpei, Deputy Chinese Foreign Minister led the Chinese delegation for the second Summit and delivered a speech reaffirming China's support for the Middle East peace process and for the countries in this Region in their efforts for regional economic cooperation. He also expressed that China would actively develop its economic cooperation with regional countries and strive for the prosperity and stability in this region.


III. Cairo Conference


The Third Middle East/North Africa Economic Conference was held from Nov.12 to 14, 1996 in Cairo of Egypt. After Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was elected in May, 1996, he pursued a tough policy of no approval for the establishment of an independent Palestine State, no return of Golan Heights to Syria and no negotiation for the status of Jerusalem, and the new Israeli government suspended the negotiation with Syria, pronounced the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and refused to implement the agreement reached in Nov. 1995 concerning redeployment in Hebron. The Arab countries showed great dissatisfaction with Israel's strong position and the Arab-Israeli relations strained. Most of the Arab countries considered it unrealistic to open the door to Israel through cooperation because of the lack of faith from the new Israeli government and took a passive attitude towards this conference. As a result, the summit was degraded to an economic conference and bore more economic nature than the previous two summits. The conference was presided over by the Egyptian President Mubarak and attended by around 4,600 people including 87 official delegations from Middle East, Europe and America, executives of 52 international and regional organizations and 2,600 businessmen. The theme of this conference was building the future and creating an appropriate environment for investment. Five Plenary Sessions on peace and development, economic atmosphere, the role played by the enterprises in the economic development, investment and Middle East/North Africa countries in the 21st century were held during the conference and over 30 thematic discussions on privatization, the government's role in developing economy, water, BOT projects, finance and currencies, etc. were also convened. And several dozens of project exchange meetings and presentations were held as well among enterprises and companies of the participating countries. The Cairo Declaration adopted in the conference underlined the adherence to the basic principle of land for peace and the determination to push the Middle East peace process and expounded the idea that regional economic cooperation should be strengthened and the regional development must be linked to the realization of peace. It also demanded that U.S. should start as soon as possible the work of the Middle East and North Africa Development Bank. U.S. indicated that the Bank would come into operation at the end of 1997. And it was decided in the conference that a group of five which was headed by U.S. and made up of representatives from Japan, Egypt, Russia and Netherlands would be organized and began to work on the concrete preparations at the end of 1996. Mr. Liu Shanzai, Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation led the Chinese delegation for the conference and spoke on the conference reiterating China's support for the Middle East peace process and for the regional countries in their efforts to accomplish regional economic cooperation.


IV. Doha Conference


The Fourth Middle East/North Africa Economic Conference was convened from Nov.16 to 18, 1997 in Doha, capital of Qatar at a time when the Middle East peace process suffered a serious setback because of the persistence of Netanyahu government's tough policy and most Arab countries' insistance that they would refuse to carry out economic cooperation with Israel unless it made some concessions. Such main Arab countries as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Morocco insisted on the link between their presence in the conference and the progress made in the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations and boycotted this conference at length. Only a small numbers of Arab countries like Oman, Jordan, Kuwait, Tunisia, Yemen, Sudan, Mauritania, Djibouti etc. attended the conference and the rank of participants was lower than before. Totally 2,000 people including official delegations from 66 countries, officials of 15 international and regional organizations and 850 foreign entrepreneurs were present at the conference chaired by Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad. The theme of the conference was creating a new private/public partnership for trade and economic growth beyond the year 2000. Five Plenary Sessions on the prospect of the Middle East/North Africa in 21st century, political and economic reforms, natural gas resource, the strategy of infrastructure and privatization were held during the conference and 39 seminars on water resource, oil and natural gas, Palestinian economy, food and agriculture and several cooperative project presentations were also held. The Doha Declaration passed in the conference reaffirmed the adherence to the principle of land for peace and stressed the concern about the difficult situation of the Palestinian economy. But no progress was made in the implementation of the regional cooperation mechanism such as the Middle East/North Africa Development Bank and the promotion of Arab-Israel direct economic and trade cooperation. Even the host country for the next conference was not decided. Mr. Li Ben, Deputy Director of the Department of West Asia and Africa of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation headed the Chinese delegation for the conference.


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