Multilateral Working Group
on Water Resources, Hammamet, Tunisia
(May 16, 1996)
Press Statement of the Gavelholder
Meeting in Hammamet, Tunisia, May 15-16, the Water Resources
Group of the Multilateral Middle East Peace Process launched new
efforts to address water problems in the Middle East and consolidated
progress on a variety of cooperative initiatives. Thirteen Middle
Eastern and North African parties were represented, joined by
delegations from Europe, North America, and Asia. The United
States chairs the Group.
The Group agreed to two new projects. The United States introduced
an initiative to expand public awareness of water issues, particularly
conservation of water. Among others, the Israeli, Palestinian,
Jordanian, and Egyptian delegations indicated their desire to
work together on such a project, which would also highlight the
cooperation occurring through the multilateral peace process.
The parties welcomed an offer by Tunisia to host the first meeting
of experts to explore next steps to implement this new regional
initiative. In a second new project, France will finance a major
effort to manage critical changes, such as pollution crises or
system damage, in drainage areas and river basins. The project
will assist the Palestinians, Israelis, and Jordanians.
The participants also reviewed progress in a number of projects
already underway, including the Middle East Desalination Research
Center being established in Oman under the auspices of the Group.
Several of the Group's participants have pledged a total of fifteen
million dollars in support of the Center, which has already begun
region-wide training courses. A regional data banks project focusing
on Jordan, Israel and the West Bank and Gaza has begun to produce
substantial results, including development of Palestinian capacity
to collect and manage water data. The United States, the European
Union, Canada, and Norway have financed the data banks project.
The Water Resources Working Group is one of five such groups
established in January 1992, shortly after the Madrid Peace Conference.
In addition to water, the groups cover environment, regional
economic development, refugees, and arms control and regional
security. They are designed to complement and support the bilateral
negotiations by increasing practical cooperation on topics of
regional interest. Tunisia has hosted three plenary meetings
in the multilateral track since these talks began.
Source: U.S. State Department