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Moscow Multilateral Steering Group Ministerial Joint Declaration

On February 1, 2000, the Foreign Ministers of the Multilateral Steering Group of the Middle East Peace Process met in Moscow to reinvigorate the Multilateral Track of the Middle East Peace Process, an integral component of the Madrid framework.

The meeting was the first formal Multilateral Steering Group meeting held since 1995. As co-sponsors of the Middle East Peace Process, the meeting was chaired by Secretary of State Albright and Foreign Minister Ivanov.

Steering Group ministers expressed their strong commitment to the achievement of a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. In this vein, they expressed their hope for further achievement and progress in the bilateral tracks. They recognize that progress in the multilateral tracks is related to and supports the bilateral tracks. They commended the parties for their dedication to resolving their differences through the negotiation of comprehensive peace agreements. They also expressed their support for the early participation of Syria and Lebanon in the multilaterals.

In recognition of the new possibilities for achieving a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, Steering Group ministers pledged to invest the activities of the Multilateral Track with dedication and sustained commitment. This would enable the multilateral track to enhance regional cooperation by addressing issues of mutual concern and great importance to the region.

In discussing the role of the Multilateral Track, ministers agreed that one of the most effective ways the international community can support progress in the bilateral tracks is by enhancing regional cooperation through the dialogue and exchanges that take place among the parties in the Multilateral Working Groups. They underscored that regional cooperation will flourish in a positive and conducive environment. In this respect, they called for the faithful and expeditious implementation of all agreements reached among the parties in the bilateral and multilateral tracks and recognized the necessity to create a positive environment for the negotiations.

Steering Group ministers endorsed the institutionalization of the REDWG Monitoring Committee Secretariat in Amman, and the tangible progress achieved by the working groups on refugees, environment and water.

As a first step in the process of enhancing regional dialogue and cooperation, Steering Group ministers welcomed the proposals by the Gavel Holders of the Multilateral Working Groups on Water, Environment, Regional Economic Development and Refugees to hold formal Working Group Plenary meetings in the first half of 2000.

In that regard, Steering Group Ministers endorsed the proposals of the Gavel Holders to hold formal plenary meetings of the Water Working Group in Muscat on April 11-12; the Regional Economic Development Working Group (REDWG) in Amman on May 8-11, the Refugee Working Group in Ottawa on May 16-18, and the Environment Working Group in Tunis on May 31 - June 1.

Steering Group ministers emphasized the importance of reaching an agreed comprehensive agenda for the Working Group on Arms Control and Regional Security. In this regard, they called on the parties in the region to intensify their efforts to reach this agreement and to resume their work, with the help of the co-sponsors, with the goal of getting formal ACRS activities underway within a few months. The co-sponsors will keep the members of the Steering Group regularly advised of progress on this matter.

Steering Group ministers agreed that it was appropriate at this time to explore ways that the Multilateral Track could better focus its activities and projects in areas of direct interest to the parties and whose effects would be felt by the people of the region, as they move towards comprehensive peace. They also noted the desirability of examining the economic implications of peace and the support which may be required from the international community. While proceeding with agreed upon activities, ministers agreed to examine additional ways to structure multilateral meetings and programs more efficiently and effectively. In this regard, Steering Group ministers asked the co-sponsors and the Gavel Holders to conduct consultations with regional parties and other relevant parties on this matter, in preparation for the upcoming meetings of the working groups.

In this regard, the Steering Group Ministers asked senior officials of the Steering group, under the guidance of the co-sponsors, to discuss specific ideas to increase the effectiveness of and possible new directions for the multilateral and to report those recommendations at the next Steering Group meeting.

Steering Group ministers welcomed the offer of the EU to prepare, with the two co-sponsors, and host the next Multilateral Steering Group meeting in July 2000.

Source: Israeli Foreign Ministry