Crans-Montana, June 20 (RFE/RL) - A senior Israeli official has appealed to Arab and Palestinian leaders to continue co-operation with Jerusalem despite the change of government to build the Middle East into an important economic unit.
Joseph Vardi, who has been a financial and foreign affairs advisor
to several Israeli governments, was speaking at the annual Crans Montana economic and political forum in Switzerland. Originally Palestinian President Yasser Arafat was scheduled to attend today's sessions but he failed to arrive.
Vardi said the peace process had already led to considerable
co-operation between Israel, Jordan and Egypt in planning better
road, rail and air links across the region. Discussions were already
under way to bring Saudi Arabia into the process.
Other projects under discussion included a network of natural gas
lines across the Middle East including Qatar and Oman and an
international network of pipelines to supply water from water-rich
regions to those where it was scarce.
Vardi said that if the peace process continued, the Middle East
could be developed into an economic hub for trade between Europe and
potential markets in Africa, the Arab world and Asia. He emphasised
particularly the opportunities it offered for Black Sea states and
also for the former Yugoslavia.