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.