Skip to main content
  • Parties of the Madrid Peace Conference create the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) working group

    Following the 1991 Madrid peace conference, the parties met in Washington, D.C. and decided to proceed with dividing the talks to multilateral and bilateral tracks. The multilateral track included five working groups covering arms control and regional security, economic development, water, refugees, and the environment. The working groups complemented three bilateral peace negotiation tracks between Israel and its Arab neighbours (the Palestinians, Jordan and Syria). The ACRS group held six plenary sessions between 1992 and 1994 and was split into a conceptual and an operational baskets. By mid-1995, due to complications in the peace process, the upcoming NPT Review and Extension conference and the ongoing disagreement between Israel and Egypt over the question of when to place a discussion of the nuclear issue on the agenda, ACRS talks were put on hold indefinitely and no formal meeting was held after September 1995.

  • -

    Foreign ministers meet to agree the organization of the ACRS talks

    At a foreign ministers' meeting to organize multilateral talks in Moscow, it was agreed that Russia, which succeeded the Soviet Union at the talks, and the United States would serve as the co-sponsors of the multilateral process. The Steering Group, the coordinating body of the multilateral forum as a whole, comprised of Egypt, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinians, Saudi Arabia (representing the Gulf states), Tunisia (representing the Maghreb), Japan, Canada, and the European Union. Syria and Lebanon refused to participate in the multilateral talks before a political settlement of outstanding issues with Israel. A Palestinian delegation was admitted after the establishment of an Israeli government led by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

  • -

    First plenary session of ACRS is held in Washington, D.C.

    The first substantive meeting of the newly formed ACRS working group met in Washington D.C. Discussions centred around of the applicability to the Middle East of measures adopted in the U.S.-Soviet/European theatre: a hotline for messages about military exercises, preventing misunderstandings, and avoiding incidents at sea. The delegates agreed to support measures to reduce the chance of military misunderstandings that could have destabilizing consequences and agreed that, with peace, an arms control regime would include weapons of mass destruction. Arab nations presented a joint proposal for parties to register arms imports, publish military budgets, provide advance warnings of military exercises, and provide for reciprocal visits of defence installations.

  • -

    Second plenary session of ACRS is held in Moscow

    Each delegation was asked to formulate its long-term objectives for arms control in the Middle East and to present further suggestions for building trust between the region's countries at the next meeting of the group. This formulation permitted the inclusion of nuclear-related issues into an agreed-upon diplomatic framework.

    Egypt asked that the next meeting give top priority to Israel's nuclear disarmament. Two weeks before the September 1992 meeting, Hans Blix, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Committee, visited Israel. Israeli officials claimed, however, that the appropriate forum for discussing regional disarmament was only in the arms control committee of the multilateral talks.

  • -

    Third plenary session of ACRS is held in Washington, D.C.

    On 5 February 1993, Egypt approached Israel with a proposal to hold arms control talks on verification issues and to discuss Foreign Minister Shimon Peres’ arms control initiative, as outlined in his speech at the January 1993 signing ceremony of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Egypt’s call was welcomed by Israel.

    During the third plenary, the “delegations agreed on the need to move into a more active stage of work. To this end, they agreed on the importance of using intersessional periods between plenary meetings of the Working Group to accelerate the pace of work, increase the frequency of contacts and pursue more focused activities.” As listed in the co-chairmen's concluding remarks, several visits, workshops, and activities were agreed. The three visits agreed were to an airbase in the UK, an observation of a NATO military exercise in Denmark, and a visit to a communications facility in the Hague. The intersessional workshops included a verifications workshop in Cairo, a communications measures workshop, an information exchange workshop, a maritime measures workshop, and workshop on the long-term objectives and declaratory measures of ACRS.

  • ACRS holds an intersessional meeting focusing on verification

    At the intersessional meeting of ACRS, experts discussed measures adopted in Europe and between the U.S. and Russia to verify nuclear, chemical, biological, conventional weapons, and outer space armaments. The group also reviewed confidence-building measures that had been tabled in the meeting in Moscow in 1992, as well as ways to validate accords on arms control within the framework of the multilateral talks

  • -

    Fourth plenary session of ACRS is held in Moscow

    Representatives discussed the seminars held in July, September, and October with the intention of consolidating the ACRS process into two "baskets". The conceptual basket focused on creating general principles and norms to guide regional security. Discussions covered a declaration on the principles guiding relations among regional states; the ultimate objectives of the arms control process; and a set of declaratory measures that might provide the parties with effective mutual reassurances. The parties were also expected to define the region’s boundaries; to articulate their threat perceptions; to elaborate generic verification methods; to design crisis- and conflict-prevention mechanisms; and to produce menus of confidence-building measures. The operational basket focused on technical CSBMs in four agreed areas: maritime issues, exchange of military information and prior notification, the establishment of a regional communications network, and establishing a Regional Security Center.

  • Egypt and Israel hold a bilateral meeting in Cairo to address disagreements over the nuclear issue

    Nabil Fahmy, the head of the Egyptian delegation to the arms control talks, visited Israel for a bilateral meeting with David Ivri, the head of the Israeli delegation. This meeting marked the first time the top Israeli and Egyptian representatives met for direct talks outside the multilateral working-group framework. The meeting was called to diffuse ongoing controversy between Egypt and Israel in the multilateral talks, precipitated by the Egyptian demand to raise the nuclear issue in the multilateral talks as soon as possible. Israel insisted that the nuclear issue be addressed only when stable peace arrangements were implemented in the Middle East.

  • Workshop of the conceptual basket holds a meeting to draft the ACRS Declaration of Principles (DOP) in Cairo

    The topic of this meeting was the conceptual basket. Participants drafted the ACRS Declaration of Principles (DOP) modelled on and inspired both by the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 and by the Israeli-PLO DOP. The draft included four parts: a preamble which placed the DOP in the context of the Middle East peace process; a section on the core principles for regional security relations, such as the peaceful resolution of conflicts; basic guidelines for the ACRS process; and statements of intent on major objectives, including CSBMs, conventional arms control, and establishing of a WMDFZ. The parties agreed to work on the draft back at their capitals and to consider formal adoption at the next planned plenary in May 1994 in Doha.

  • -

    Fifth plenary session of ACRS is held in Doha

    This was the first ACRS plenary to be held in the Middle East. It was also the most contentious plenary where Arab and Israeli delegations clashed over how the talks were to proceed. The delegates approved, in principle, the establishment of a crisis prevention centre, a communication system linking foreign ministries, and maritime cooperation in search and rescue missions. However, disagreement continued over how to address the WMD issue. The controversy focused on the Arab parties' insistence that elimination of WMD should top the multilateral agenda. The Arab parties wanted Israel to agree to measures controlling its nuclear weapons capability, including by signing the NPT and opening its nuclear sites to international inspection. The Israelis insisted that the priority should be to establish confidence-building measures. The talks ended without an agreement on the Declaration of Principles (DOP) on arms control.

    The language, originally drafted at the Cairo February 1994 intersessional of the “Declaration of Principles and Statements of Intent on Arms Control and Regional Security”, was retitled to "Declaration on Arms Control and Regional Security." Saudi Arabia was also unwilling to adopt the drafted ACRS Declaration of Principles. The Saudis described the proposed text as a pretext to normalization with Israel, which had “nothing to do with arms limitation.” Other Arab delegations agreed it was premature to adopt such a declaration before a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace agreement. There were also objections to the human rights clause as it might invite external interference in the internal affairs of signatory states.

  • Workshop of the conceptual basket to continue drafting the DOP of ACRS is held in Paris

    The Paris meeting in October ended without an agreement on the text of the “Declaration on Arms Control and Regional Security” called for during the plenary meeting in Doha in May 1994. In order to adopt the document during the next plenary meeting, the parties agreed to meet in Amman, Jordan to continue working on the draft.

  • Workshop of the conceptual basket held in Amman agrees to establish a regional conflict prevention centre

    On November 8, a 17-member working-level meeting in Amman reached an expert-level agreement to establish a regional conflict prevention centre. Other aspects of the operational basket were addressed, including communications, information exchange, and maritime issues.

  • -

    Sixth and final plenary session of ACRS is held in Tunis

    This plenary session of ACRS included delegations from Israel, 12 Arab countries, and the Palestinians. Although there was broad agreement on its language, the paragraph in the DOP dealing with how to achieve a ME WMDFZ remained a bracketed item. The meeting ended without agreement on the wording of a final declaration. While all participants agreed to the principle of establishing a WMDFZ in the Middle East, Israel disagreed with Egypt’s addition that “all the parties of the region will adhere to the NPT in the near future.” However, agreement was reached on the establishment of three regional security and conflict-prevention centres to be established in Jordan, Tunis, and Qatar. A working document was also prepared on the need for prior notification of military exercises, in which the parties agreed to provide notification of military exercises involving more than 4,000 troops or 110 tanks and to exchange military information and Israel reissued an invitation for Arab nations to visit Israeli military installations.
    The meeting was the last ACRS plenary.