A New Multilateral Framework for the Middle East

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Virginia Tech

The numerous policy challenges facing the United States and the international community in the Middle East are interrelated. This demands the adoption a comprehensive approach to the region rather than a set of bilateral initiatives. Any new diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict should look beyond the Israeli- Palestinian and the Israeli-Syrian bilateral issues at stake and situate those negotiations within a broader comprehensive regional approach. This paper calls for the setting up of a new multilateral track to complement renewed diplomatic efforts aimed at achieving an Israeli- Palestinian and an Israeli-Syrian peace agreement. This new multilateral framework should consist of two baskets, a ‘security’ basket and an ‘economic and social development’ basket. The paper reviews the experience and activities of the previous multilateral talks set up by the 1991 Madrid Conference. It evaluates the contribution of those talks to the Arab-Israeli peace process and discusses with the strengths and failings of those talks. The paper concludes by offering a number ideas for the structure and functioning of this new multilateral framework.