This contribution will briefly review the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) experience, and will seek to position ACRS within the stresses and strains of its time. In particular, it will reflect on the different expectations which many had of ACRS and will ask why the group evolved as it did in relation to the peace process. Finally, the essay will reflect on what this says about possible future attempts to discuss or negotiate a regional approach to arms control and security in the Middle East in the short to medium term and the topics which must be on the agenda of such attempts. The essay concludes by arguing that the time may be ripe for a new, more co-operative and inclusive approach to security in the region.
The ACRS working group was one of five groups active on the multilateral track of the peace process. It met in plenary session six times between May 1992 and December 1994. It also spawned a series of smaller discussions, which were focused either on specific Confidence and Security Building Measures (CSBMs), or conceptual ideas concerning security and arms control in the region. 1
Essentially, there were two strands of argument throughout ACRS. Israel argued that the process would be an incremental one and that initial efforts should be expended on a series of CSBMs and other measures which would promote confidence between the regional states. Once this was well underway, and the regional states had developed a rapport and a level of comfort with each other, more difficult issues could be considered. The