State Dept. Urges Business Leaders to Invest in Middle East for Peace

American Jewish business leaders heard a strong pitch from the Clinton administration this week to get involved in business opportunities in the Middle East in order to assist the peace process.

With the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian accord last month, economic visions of regional cooperation once dismissed as dreams have now become distinct possibilities.

Israeli officials and American businesspeople, including leaders of American-Israel chambers of commerce around the country, gathered at the Israeli Embassy here Wednesday for an all-day economic seminar to learn how they could help secure peace in the Middle East.

Edward Djerejian, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, played the role of salesman, telling the business leaders that governments alone cannot create peace without businesspeople creating an accompanying prosperity.

“The administration sees the private sector as bringing the Middle East peace process to fruition,” he said.

For example, he said, the region needs new energy, transportation and telecommunications links, and “U.S. firms are well-placed to capitalize on these opportunities.”

Secretary of State Warren Christopher delivered a similar message Wednesday to another group of businesspeople.

“Bringing peace to the region cannot be left to governments alone,” Christopher told the National Foreign Policy Conference for Senior Business Executives.

“Our private sector and each of you can help ensure that peace takes a firm hold in the Middle East” by “taking advantage of the growing demand for energy, transportation, telecommunications, tourism, all of those things that they need throughout the Middle East,” Christopher said.

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