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Statement by Secretary of State Christopher on the Resumption of the Peace Process

(March 10, 1993)

Upon the return of Secretary of State Christopher from the Middle East, and on the eve of the visits to Washington of Prime Minister Rabin and President Mubarak, the U.S. was able to secure the agreement of all the relevant parties to the resumption of both the bilateral talks to be held in Washington from 20 April 1993 and the reconvening of the multilateral working groups at the same time. Christopher stated that the U.S. was seeking to play a more active role in the proceedings as it did in the negotiations leading to the Camp David accords and the Israel-Egypt peace treaty. Text:

President Clinton has asked me to make an announcement today on our efforts in the Middle East. Events in the Middle East have historically captured the attention of the world. Unfortunately, too often this has been because of war. This is a region that since 1948 has known five Arab-Israeli wars. And every time there has been a war, the world has held its breath because the risk of superpower confrontation was ever present.

That risk is now a thing of the past. The end of the Cold War has created an unusual opportunity for progress toward peace in the region, and now all of us must act to seize and enhance that opportunity.

In the Middle East, such opportunities are unlikely to last very long, and the cost of lost opportunity would be very high. It's precisely because of the recognition of these costs that every Administration, for over the last four decades - Democratic and Republican alike - has played an active role in the search for peace in the Middle East.

This enduring and bipartisan commitment to promote peace reflects an unassailable reality. The search for peace in the Middle East is in America's vital national interest. It reflects the fact that conflict in this region, especially given the abundance of very destructive weapons in the region, contains the seeds of dangerous escalation. It reflects the fact that a great majority of the world's oil supplies could be put at risk; and it reflects the fact that the United States has a special commitment to Israel's security, a country that is a solid and trusted ally with whom we share a deep and abiding commitment to democratic values.

I believe we now have an opportunity to promote peace that will serve the interests of Israel, the Arab states, the Palestinians, and the entire world community. A passive American role is not enough. What is called for is an active, positive effort that will take advantage of what many believe to be a historic moment in that region.

We must now seize this opportunity to play the role of full partner, just as we did in the achievement of the Israeli-Egyptian peace 14 years ago. We have been repaid in full over the years by strong friendship and ties with both Israel and Egypt. The visits to Washington by [Israeli] Prime Minister Rabin this week and by [Egyptian] President Mubarak in April are testimony to the enduring nature of the relationships that were forged out of this negotiation.

It is time for the people in this region to set aside violence and work together for reconciliation and peace. The important steps taken at the Madrid conference have opened up a wide vista of possibilities. Over the years, Arabs and Israelis have sat together - that is, over the course of the last year they have sat together - in bilateral negotiations, seeking to achieve a comprehensive settlement based upon UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. They have also joined in multilateral negotiations on such diverse and pressing issues as arms control and regional security, economic development, water, refugees, and the environment. They have sought to build a Middle East in which neighbors work together to resolve common problems.

President Clinton is committed to helping the parties confront and overcome the difficult challenges that lie ahead. In asking me to take my first trip to the Middle East to consult with leaders in that region, the president offered our full assistance as an active, full partner in the search for peace. In doing so, he underscored the enduring reality of an American involvement in Middle East peace efforts. It is good for us Americans, and it is good for our friends and interests in the region.

The resumption of bilateral and multilateral negotiations, which we are announcing today, is important but not an end in itself. Our objective and the objective of all parties must be to make real, tangible progress soon. Nearly every one I spoke to on my trip in the Middle East agreed that there may be now a one-time opportunity to promote peace. History tells us that such opportunities may be fleeting, especially in the Middle East, and we believe it is now time to re-launch the negotiations.

Toward this end, the United States and Russia, as co-sponsors of the Middle East peace negotiations, are today inviting the parties to resume bilateral negotiations here in Washington for the two-week period commencing on Tuesday, April 20 [1993]. We're also announcing the reconvening of the multilateral working groups [on] a specified series of dates beginning with the water group on April 27 in Geneva.

To prepare the ground for these important bilateral negotiations and multilateral negotiations, we'll also be inviting the parties to send representatives to Washington in late March or early April to have substantive discussions with our enhanced U.S. team.

And so we must now all roll up our sleeves to make 1993 a year marked by real progress toward peace and reconciliation. The United States is prepared to do its part, and now the other parties must be prepared to do theirs.

Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs