Today's Middle East peace negotiations are being carried out within the structure of the Madrid
Framework. This framework, described in the Letter of Invitation to the
Madrid Conference, is the product of intensive diplomatic efforts carried out in the region
immediately following the Gulf War.
The framework consists of three basic elements:
1. The Opening Conference
The Madrid invitation called for the convening of an opening conference, in order to inaugurate two
separate yet parallel negotiating tracks -- the bilateral track and the multilateral track. The conference was
designed to serve as a opening forum for all the participants, having no power to impose solutions or veto
agreements. The Madrid Conference, hosted by the Government of Spain and co-sponsored by the US and Russia (then the USSR), opened
on October 30, 1991 and lasted for three days.
The opening addresses by hosts, co-sponsors and participating delegations reflect the aspirations of each. This conference may only
be reconvened with the agreement of all participants.
2. The Bilateral Track
The bilateral negotiations are meant to resolve the conflicts of the past. The first-ever direct talks between
Israel and her immediate Arab neighbors
opened in Madrid on November 3, 1991, immediately following the Madrid Conference.
Over a dozen formal rounds of bilateral talks
were subsequently hosted by the US Department of State in Washington.
These talks are, in fact, four separate sets of bilateral negotiations. While the talks with the three Arab states are aimed at
achieving peace treaties, the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are based on a two-stage formula: 5-year interim
self-government arrangements, to be followed by negotiations on the permanent status issues.
3. The Multilateral Track
The multilateral negotiations are meant to build the
Middle East of the
future, while building confidence among the regional parties. These talks,
which opened in Moscow in January 1992, include five separate forums
attended by delegations from countries in the region as well as
representatives of the international community. The negotiations focus on
key issues that concern the entire Middle East -- water, environment, arms
control, refugees and economic development. The talks have taken place in
working groups which meet periodically in venues throughout the world,
including the Middle East.