The Madrid Conference convened on October 30, 1991 and lasted for three days. It was hosted by the Spanish government and co-sponsored by the US and the Soviet Union.
Madrid was an early attempt by the international community to start a negotiated peace process involving Israel and the Palestinians, as well as Arab countries including Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.
In the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, US President George Bush and his secretary of state James Baker formulated the framework of objectives, and together with the Soviet Union extended a letter of invitation
, dated October 30, 1991 to Israel
, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the Palestinians.
The Palestinian team, due to Israeli objections to independent Palestinian representation, was initially formally part of the joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation and consisted of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza without open Palestine Liberation Organization
associations. These included Saeb Erekat and Haidar Abdel-Shafi, the head of the delegation.
Nevertheless, the delegation was in constant communication with the PLO leadership in Tunis. Over Israeli objections, the PLO dispatched an unofficial "advisory delegation" headed by Faisal Husseini, to act as a liaison.
The purpose of the conference was to serve as an opening forum for the participants. It had no power to impose solutions or veto agreements. It inaugurated negotiations on both bilateral and multilateral tracks. Syrian and Lebanese negotiators agreed on a common strategy.
These first-ever public bilateral talks between Israel and its neighbors (except Egypt) were aimed at achieving peace treaties between the three Arab states and Israel, while the talks with the Palestinians were based on a two-stage formula, the first consisting of negotiating interim self-government arrangements, to be followed by permanent status negotiations. (This formula was essentially followed in the later Oslo Accords.)
The talks opened immediately following the conference on November 3, 1991 in Madrid, and were followed by over a dozen formal rounds in Washington, DC from December 9, 1991 to January 24, 1994.
The multilateral negotiations, which opened in Moscow on January 28, 1992, were held in five separate forums, each focused on a major issue - water, environment, arms control, refugees and economic development. These continued until November 1993 at venues throughout the world, including European capitals and the Middle East.
At first, Israel refused to take part in the refugee and economic meetings as Palestinians from outside the West Bank and Gaza were present. Syria and Lebanon refused to take part in multilateral meetings as long as there was no concrete progress on the bilateral level.
Formal talks in the multilateral track, which had been frozen for several years, resumed on January 31, 2000 with a meeting of the Steering Committee in Moscow, to be followed by meetings of the working groups.
Israel-Jordan negotiations eventually led to a peace treaty signed in 1994, while Israel-Syria talks led to several series of negotiations, which came quite close according to some reports, but did not result in a peace treaty.
The bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations were upstaged and eventually replaced by initially secret and illegal (according to Israeli law at the time) negotiations that finally led to the exchange of letters of September 9 and 10, 1993 and the subsequent September 13, 1993 signing on the lawn of the White House of the Declaration of Principles.
The DOP was based on terms that Madrid round Palestinian negotiators had earlier rejected.