Quarterly Updates for (16 May 1995 — 15 Aug 1995)

Though Syria and Lebanon continued officially to boycott all meetings attended by Israeli representatives, two unofficial contacts took place: on 6/20, Syrian and Lebanese representatives reportedly met with an Israeli delegate on the sidelines of the multilateral meeting on water; and on 7/24 senior Syrian, Lebanese, and Israeli foreign ministry officials met in Brussels on the sidelines of the preparatory meeting for the 11/28-29 Barcelona business conference.

  • The Multilateral Talks Steering Committee (5/17-18, Montreux, Switzerland) discussed unifying the water and environmental working groups; convening economic groups once a year, instead of twice; and upgrading arms control talks to the foreign minister level. The U.S. supported an Arab initiative to create a working group on Jerusalem (opposed by Israel), and the Swiss proposed a working group on human rights (opposed by Saudi Arabia). Despite wide-ranging discussions, no decisions were taken. Israel blamed the lack of progress on the Arabs raising "issues ... not relevanto the multinational talks," such as land confiscations, release of prisoners, Jerusalem, and closure.
  • Also in June, representatives from Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, and Tunisia held a Middle East Arms Control Group meeting. Parties agreed to establish an international center in Amman for surveillance and monitoring of arms procurement and production and other military activities in the Middle East. The center will be financed by Holland and the U.S.
  • The Multilateral Working Group on Economic Development (6/7, Amman) recommended approval of urgent regional transport projects (incl., rail networks, roads, and ports) and coordination on civil aviation.
  • The Multilateral Working Group on the Environment (6/19, Amman) discussed monitoring oil spills in the Gulf of Aqaba and antidesertification projects for Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, and the self-rule areas. Over 40 countries participated.
  • The Multilateral Working Group on Water (6/20-22, Amman) discussed data collection, creating water resources, and equalizing water laws and regulations. Parties proposed joint projects totalling $50 m.: $2.5 m. from the U.S. and EU for a Palestinian data bank; $3 m. from Austria for water irrigation; $5 m. from the U.S, Japan, and Israel for waste water treatment; $7 m. from the Netherlands for a Nahal Besor/Wadi 'Aza dam to enrich the Gaza aquifer; and $30 m. from Oman for regional desalinization. On 6/20, the water group also convened a joint meeting with the environmental group to discuss matters of mutual interest.