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[Text as prepared for delivery]
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Foreign Minister Ivanov, distinguished colleagues, I am pleased to be here in Moscow where we have important business to conduct.
This is evidenced by the fact that our Russian friends have been trying to convene this meeting for four years. That they have succeeded now reflects well on Foreign Minister Ivanov's persuasiveness, and on the improved prospects for progress towards a comprehensive Middle East peace.
Your presence here is a sign that the parties are not alone in their desire to travel the road to peace. Their efforts are supported broadly. We want them to succeed. We will help them along the way. And we will do all we can to see that the benefits of peace are felt by people throughout the region.
We have three principal objectives:
First, to craft a strong joint statement in support of the Madrid process, stressing the importance of forward movement on all tracks.
Second, to endorse dates and venues for working group plenary meetings on water, the environment, refugees, and regional economic development; and
Third, to consider new directions for the multilateral track, in terms of both content and structure, to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of regional parties. I look forward to a productive discussion on this subject later this morning.
I do not have to tell any of you about the importance of this meeting. It is the first ministerial on the multilateral track in eight years. By reviving this track by our actions today, we fulfill a vital part of the bold vision of Madrid.
Of course, our efforts here can not take the place of the bilateral track. If we are to transform the landscape of the region, the bilateral tracks must succeed. And while there are inevitably problems and difficulties in negotiating such agreements, we believe the desire for peace is real.
Certainly the logic of peace has never been more compelling, nor the opportunity for peace so clear. It is essential that this priceless opportunity be seized, not squandered.
Ultimately, only the parties can make the fateful decisions for peace on the bilateral tracks. We can and will do all we can to support their efforts and their decisions.
We will also do all we can to move the multilateral process forward. For this is a track that can make a real difference to those who live in the region.
Consider that under the umbrella of the multilaterals, four economic summits have led thousands of business executives to consider the benefits of investing in a post-peace Middle East.
Palestinian refugees are being trained in advanced computer technologies.
A research center for water desalinization technology has opened in Oman.
Officials have laid plans for a network of regional security centers from Tunis to Amman to Doha.
And environmental officials are looking for ways to prevent desertification and curb the harmful effects of pesticides.
Despite all this, it has not been easy keeping the momentum going.
Of course there is a relationship between the multilaterals and the overall political environment. In our view, this work is too important to be turned on and off like a light switch. It requires steady and sustained effort to prepare the ground.
And it must be understood for what it is and what it is not. This track is not a favor to one party over the others. It is a process for regional cooperation that will benefit all the people of the region regardless of where they live, how they worship, or what they call themselves.
All the legs of the Madrid process need to be strengthened. This week, here in Moscow, we have our chance to strengthen the multilateral leg. We must take full advantage of this chance.
For today, there is no doubt about the right roadmap to reconciliation in the Middle East. It is based on the principle of land for peace. It was laid out at Madrid, and then more clearly at Oslo and in the agreements since.
The parties all have hard choices to make, but there truly is no better time to make them then now, no better year to move forward than this.
But we, too, have hard choices to make. We can sit on the sidelines and wait while opportunity after opportunity passes by the Middle East without stopping. We can watch this region of promise fall further behind and grow further apart. Or we can come together and do our part to assist the parties in building a comprehensive and lasting peace for the benefit of all.
President Clinton has made clear that the choice of the United States is to help build peace and bring opportunity. To those ends, we ask your continued help. And look for a very productive session here in Moscow today.