Arab League, Israeli reps. set to meet

Reunion honoring '91 Madrid Conference includes Syrian, Fatah representatives.

arab league 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
arab league 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Although the peace process appears to be stuck, representative of the Arab League, including Syria, will meet with Israeli delegates starting Wednesday at a reunion honoring the 1991 Madrid Conference. The three-day conference in Madrid, a civil initiative inspired by the need to create an international climate favorable to facilitating the peace process, is called Madrid +15: Madrid 15 Years Later. Organized by the Toledo International Peace Center, Search for Common Ground and the Fundacion Tres Culturas del Mediterraneo, Madrid +15 aims to identify the expectations of the parties involved and find a platform from which to launch a sustainable end to the conflict. Emilio Cassinello, director-general of the Toledo International Peace Center, said the "key objective" of the conference was "to impart a global message that even though the present distances between the positions of the parties involved in the Near East crisis are unbridgeable, they are not unsalvageable, and that the positions should and must be brought closer." The current conference will be attended by a team of eight representatives from the Palestinian Authority headed by Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan; 11 Israeli representatives including former foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami and former head of Military Intelligence Uri Saguy; a European contingent including the foreign ministers of Denmark, Norway and Sweden and former French foreign minister Hubert Vedrine, as well as former Spanish president Felipe Gonzalez and EU high representative for common and security policy, Javier Solana. Russia, the UN, the Arab League, the Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf, Syria and Saudi Arabia will also be represented, as will the US, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. Cassinello will be one of the moderators at a Wednesday session entitled "How to Influence Policy." Other working sessions on that day will concentrate individually on Lebanon-Israel, Palestine-Israel and Syria-Israel issues. On Friday the four working sessions will report to a chair presided by Royal Counselor Andre Azoulay and Regional Minister of the Presidency of Andalucia Gaspar Zarrias - both members of the Fundacion Tres Culturas del Mediterraneo. Following that, the "Middle East Working Session: A Regional Approach", will be moderated by Marc Otte, EU special representative for the Middle East peace process, and will include Terje Roed-Larsen, president of the International Academy for Peace and former special coordinator to the Middle East peace process and Hans Blix, former Swedish foreign minister. According to Cassinello, a peace initiative is to be found somewhere among all the previous attempts, including the Oslo Accords, the road map, Clinton's parameters and the Saudi initiative supported by the Arab League. "Recent initiatives and political proposals emphasize the need for a regional focus with international support in the spirit of the peace conference held in Madrid in 1991," he said. After an audience with Spanish King Juan Carlos I, the opening dinner of Madrid +15 will take place Wednesday evening at the Santa Cruz Palace, hosted by the governments of Spain, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos will give the welcoming address.