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1991: Bush opens historic Mid East peace conference
US President George Bush has encouraged Arabs and Israelis to "lay down the past" in his opening speech to the Middle East peace conference in Spain.

It is the first time in 43 years that Israel has sat down with all its Arab neighbours to discuss peace.

"Territorial compromise is essential for peace," said President Bush.

"We seek peace, real peace. And by real peace I mean treaties. If we cannot summon the courage to lay down the past for ourselves then let us do it for the children."

Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev added: "We have a unique opportunity, and it would be unforgivable to miss this opportunity. Success is in everybody's interests."

Reaction to the opening day was positive from all sides.

Israelis praised President Bush for promising not to railroad them into any agreements while the Palestinians believed he showed support for their hopes for some form of self-government.

We seek peace, real peace
US President George Bush
The conference was organised by the US and Soviet Union and has taken months of careful preparation.

Representatives from all Israel's immediate Arab neighbours were present at the Madrid Royal Palace and there was a surprise appearance from Saudi Prince Bandar Bin Sultan who had not been expected to attend.

The opening day of the conference will be followed by one-on-one sessions between Israel and each of its neighbours and then wider discussions in the hope of finding a solution to end the current troubles.

The aim of the talks is for all sides to resolve their rival territorial claims. Areas including the Gaza Strip, West Bank and Jerusalem are the main points of contention.
In Context
The Madrid conference was deemed a success and paved the way for more talks. In 1993, the Oslo Peace Accords resulted in an agreement that the Palestinians would consent to recognise Israel in return for the beginning of phased dismantling of Israel's occupation.

In November 1995 Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish religious extremist. Shimon Peres took over as Prime Minister of Israel.

In 1999 Yasser Arafat was persuaded to continue with the interim resolutions founded in Oslo so negotiations could take place with the new administration.

In 2000 a visit by Israeli's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the al-Aqsa/Temple Mount led to a Palestinian uprising or intifada.

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President Bush addresses the Madrid conference
This was the first time in 43 years that Israel sat down with its Arab neighbours to discuss peace

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