The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the League of Arab States, and the European Union, in collaboration with the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, have initiated a joint effort to reinvigorate the peace process.
To this end, they convened a ministerial meeting today at the United Nations headquarters in New York on the sidelines of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The meeting saw the participation of approximately 50 foreign ministers representing countries from across the globe.
The primary objective of these endeavours is to formulate a comprehensive "peace process support package," aiming to optimise the benefits of peace for both Palestinians and Israelis upon reaching a final agreement. Additionally, these efforts are meant to initiate detailed programmes and contributions contingent upon the achievement of a final status agreement. This approach is designed to bolster peace and ensure that all communities in the region can enjoy the dividends of this achievement. The ultimate goal is to make the Day of Peace a day of realising the opportunities and pledges that are being diligently pursued.
The quest for peace between Palestinians and Israelis remains elusive, even decades after the inception of the peace process in Madrid in 1991. A genuine path towards a two-state solution appears distant, as previous agreements, such as the Oslo Accords, have not been fully honoured. The occupation persists, accompanied by a host of complications and challenges that hinder both parties from achieving any potential agreement.
It is evident that maintaining the current status quo is neither sustainable nor acceptable, particularly given the ongoing conflicts in the international landscape. Neglecting the imperative to rejuvenate the peace process serves neither party's interests and is detrimental to the present and future of the Middle East.
These collaborative efforts are grounded in the urgent necessity to safeguard the two-state solution, which entails the establishment of a sovereign, independent, contiguous, and viable Palestinian state based on the borders of 4 June 1967. They are also founded on the principles of upholding international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law.
It is crucial to respect and fully implement Security Council resolutions pertaining to the Palestinian issue, the most recent of which is Security Council Resolution 2334. This resolution condemns any actions aimed at altering the demographic composition, character, or status of the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem. It also underscores the refusal to recognise any changes to the borders of 4 June 1967, except those mutually agreed upon by both parties through negotiations. Additionally, it emphasises the maintenance of the status quo in Jerusalem's holy sites, with a specific emphasis on Hashemite custodianship.
The meeting stressed the pressing need to reinvigorate the peace process to achieve a two-state solution in accordance with international law, United Nations Security Council resolutions, the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, and the 2013 European Union Peace Support Initiative. The meeting highlighted that the alternative to this approach is a further deterioration in the situation, posing threats to both regional and international security.
The Peace Day efforts draw inspiration from various sources, including the Arab Peace Initiative, which represents the collective vision of Arab nations for attaining comprehensive regional peace, along with its associated conditions and prerequisites.
The Arab Peace Initiative is premised on a complete withdrawal from all Palestinian and Arab territories occupied since 1967, in exchange for full normalisation. Furthermore, the initiative received endorsement from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and was welcomed by both the European Union and the United Nations. The Peace Day endeavours are also built upon a 2013 EU initiative aimed at providing "an unprecedented package of political, security, and economic support" to both parties as part of a final status agreement.
The Peace Day initiatives are intended to underscore the benefits of the Arab Peace Initiative and the European Peace Support Package while rallying all current and prospective international endeavours. These efforts are open to any parties willing to offer substantial contributions.
With this foundation, the initiative leaders aim to devise a "comprehensive support package for peace." This package is slated for presentation immediately following the launch of Peace Day, once the two parties have achieved a peace agreement based on the two-state solution. This extensive package would facilitate the preservation of peace and the realisation of its benefits for all.
The initiative does not seek to outline the specifics of the agreement to be reached between the Palestinians and Israelis, in accordance with internationally recognised standards. These details will be negotiated directly by the two parties. Additionally, the Peace Day efforts require envisioning the implications of peace between Palestinians and Israelis for relations in the Middle East and beyond. These endeavours are not intended to replace the long-awaited peace process but rather aim to elucidate the potential benefits and advantages of peace across various domains. It is crucial to emphasise that all these benefits can only be realised on the Day of Peace, neither before nor in preparation for it.
During the meeting, the leaders of the initiative launched working groups responsible for developing the components of the "Comprehensive Peace Support Package" and extended invitations to all participants to contribute to these working groups.
The working groups will concentrate on defining the essential components of the "Peace Support Package." These groups will convene at the envoy or ambassadorial level, with input sought from specialised experts. Coordination of their activities will be overseen by a joint leadership consisting of those responsible for the initiative. These working groups will arrange conferences, seminars, and studies to craft detailed, practical, and implementable elements for the "Peace Support Package."
The task force formed today encompasses:
A political and security working group that will concentrate on delineating potential regional, political, and security cooperation mechanisms for the post-peace period.
An economic and environmental working group tasked with presenting proposals for economic cooperation, particularly in the realms of trade, investment, innovation, transport infrastructure, natural resources, as well as addressing climate change and environmental issues.
A working group focused on humanitarian aspects, which will submit proposals for cooperation concerning humanitarian matters, multiculturalism, and human security, in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 66/290.
Participants in the Peace Day initiative will monitor the progress of the working groups to facilitate the incorporation of various contributions into the "Peace Support Package". Progress will be assessed every three months, with the initial assessment scheduled for December 2023. The primary objective of the working groups is to finalise the "Peace Support Package" for presentation by September 2024. Contributors to the Peace Day initiative will assess the completion of the working groups' tasks and determine whether further efforts are needed. The conference organisers have established consultation mechanisms with the Palestinians and Israelis separately.
It is imperative to break away from existing negative patterns and safeguard the prospects for peace. Therefore, those responsible for this initiative call for an end to all unilateral actions that undermine the two-state solution, including settlement activities, land confiscations, home demolitions, violence, and incitement to violence. They emphasise the importance of respecting the historic status of holy sites in Jerusalem, upholding the role of Hashemite custodianship, and recognising the role of the Department of Islamic Endowments in Jerusalem.
Concurrently, participants in these endeavours underscored the imperative of commencing earnest and credible negotiations to conclude the conflict and attain peace within a well-defined timeframe. They advocated for the advancement of Palestinian economic development and the removal of any impediments, including through the dedicated liaison committee responsible for coordinating international assistance provided to the Palestinian populace.
Without the preservation of prospects for a two-state solution and the initiation of negotiations towards its realisation, the prospects for peace will continually wane, and the conflict will continue to shape the region's future, much as it has in the past. While Peace Day efforts alone may not bring about peace, they can contribute to forging a new era marked by prosperity, accomplishments, and cooperation among all nations and peoples in the region.