Background of Madrid Peace Conference, 1991

What led to the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991?

The breakup of the Soviet Union and the Gulf War reshaped the basic political order of the Middle East. In an attempt to take advantage of this change, US Secretary of State James Baker made eight trips to the region in the eight months following the Gulf War. The Madrid Invitation, inviting Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinians to an opening conference jointly sponsored by the US and the Soviet Union on October 30, 1991, represents the result of this shuttle diplomacy.


The invitation, an outcome of compromises by all sides, detailed the structure of the Madrid process:

  • An opening conference having no power to impose solutions
  • Bilateral talks with the Arab states bordering Israel
  • Talks with the Palestinians on 5-year interim self-rule, to be followed by talks on the permanent status
  • Multilateral talks on key regional issues, like refugees

The conference itself is described on the page titled What happened at the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference?.


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