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Speeches
Remarks by His Majesty King Abdullah II
Before the European Parliament
Strasbourg, France
12 June 2002

President Cox,
Distinguished Members,

Thank you. It is indeed an honour to address the European Parliament. Your Forum is home to an historic experiment that attests that even after the most terrible of conflicts, people of different nations, of unique cultures, can together create a future of peace. I need not tell you that your work has lessons for the world.

Jean Monnet said it very simply fifty years ago: "Nous ne coalisons pas des Etats, nous unissons des hommes" ... "We are not creating a coalition of States, we are uniting people." But this, of course, required more than new institutions and procedures. It required the deep, practical acceptance of an idea, the idea that the future for any, depends upon the future for all.

Driven by this idea, Europe stepped back from centuries of conflict to find a new way, to resolve differences and move ahead, as one. Your Parliament has been at the epicentre of that achievement. You have built bridges, where others might promote division. You have helped understanding triumph over stereotypes. And in the midst of calls for isolation, you have reached out in partnership, throughout Europe, and beyond. It is no exaggeration to suggest that today, you have no more important partners than the countries of the Southern Mediterranean. Our relationship recognises millennia of shared experience and mutual interests. My region is the birthplace of our common history, including the three great monotheistic religions. For centuries, we have joined with Europe in what the renowned historian Fernand Braudel termed "overlapping civilisations."

Trade, scholarship, discovery, cultural exchange: in these and countless other ways, today's world was built upon the many shoulders of our many peoples. To this day, our destinies are deeply intertwined through common social, economic, and political realities. We share the promise of the 21st Century, and we share its risks and dangers as well. The urgent need of development, the evils of terrorism, the threat of weapons of mass destruction, the occupation of Palestine, these problems affect us all.

So we have a choice. We can go forward, together, to find solutions, to strengthen development, to increase understanding, to end conflict. Or we can allow events and crises to overtake and defeat us. I think it is clear what choice this House would make. Indeed, if anyone doubts how important your work is, let me invite you to consider what the aftermath of September 11th might have been without your leadership.

At a time when the enemies of our historic friendship were poised to take advantage of confusion and fear, the venues you created enabled our nations to work in solidarity against terrorism and prejudice. You spoke out clearly and forcefully against targeting innocent Arab and Muslim peoples. You expressed a commitment to a world of toleration, understanding, and mutual progress..

My friends,

I come here today to thank your Parliament for all it has done to contribute to a future of peace and prosperity, for all our peoples. And I join you here, to talk about what we must do to meet the challenges that lie ahead. For there are challenges, serious challenges, and it will take all our efforts, together, to meet them. Our first great challenge is to keep up our guard against complacency.

As the horrors of September 11th fade, and daily life goes on, it can be all too easy to fall back on group labels and old misconceptions. Let us renew our pledge: We must never allow opportunists to provoke a war of civilisations. Neither in the West, nor in the Arab World, can we allow Islam to be equated with terrorism. But more than that, we must make sure that all our peoples know and understand our shared values and the tremendous benefits of our partnership.

This holds true, by the way, for our friends across the Atlantic as well. When Americans stereotype Europe, or Europeans stereotype America, or either stereotype the Arab world, we all lose. Ours is a struggle for the future, a struggle in which every hand will count. That means ongoing, practical dialogue and cooperation.

Above all, it means speaking clearly and forcefully about the principles we stand for: democracy, freedom, respecting diversity, honouring the individual and the heritage each represents. Our second great challenge is to open the doors to prosperity and hope, for all our peoples. Today, one half of the Arab World is under 18 years of age. Our young people, like yours, seek to be a part of the 21st Century. But all too many are alienated from what makes our era so promising: innovation, new knowledge, productive employment, and the creation of wealth. Too many, perceive an unbridgeable divide between Western haves and worldwide have-nots. This division provides a breeding ground for anger and conflict. The international community has a duty to help young minds see justice upheld and not delayed. And Europe has a special role, through its partnerships, in giving young people an opportunity to find hope.

Jordan is honoured to be the first Mashrek country to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union. That agreement came into force last month. Its objectives include a progressive liberalisation of trade in goods, services and capital development, all, key engines of economic growth and opportunity. In these and other efforts, we are working together to provide better lives for our people, and to create shared economic prosperity. An important step is the creation, by 2010, of a free trade area between Jordan and the European Union countries. Europe is Jordan's major trade partner. Your markets provide about a third of all our imports. However, European markets receive less than four percent of our exports. To improve economic opportunities, we must increase such trade volumes. We believe that joint action on a number of related issues will help us do so.

We are grateful for the European Union's support during the period of transition. I am glad to report that we have already made considerable progress in liberalising our economic structures. We are charting a new path in our region, one, where the private sector is a full participant, trade can be open and free, and private capital can flow. Most important, we are investing in human-resource development, including upgrades in educational and training standards. These reforms, along with others, have already resulted in major economic, social and even cultural transformations.

Jordan is providing a model of political stability, democratic principles and the rule of law, a model that offers our people an opportunity to excel, and a model that offers promise throughout the region. We count on your continued support to ensure that our model leads the way. In one major aspect, that of exiting from a heavy debt burden which has constrained our potential for excellence, we need your immediate support. In fact, despite my country's bold steps and considerable success, another reality continues to endanger our efforts, namely, the absence of peace in the region. Last year, Jordan succeeded in achieving 4.2 per cent growth in GDP. However, the regional situation, costs us at least, one percent per year, in growth. That drain impacts a whole range of national priorities. And ours is not the only country so affected.

Let me say it plainly: We will never see a truly stable, prosperous Middle East, and the economic and political security that this would promise our neighbours, until the Palestinian-Israeli situation is solved. This leads me to our third challenge, ending the conflict, and ending it now. It is 35 years to the day that ceasefire lines in the 1967 war left Israel in control of the West Bank, and thousands of innocent Palestinians without their freedom. Since then, decades of negotiations have written their sorry record across the history books. We have seen steps forward, even some important achievements. Still, we do not have peace. In the meantime, generations on both sides have been born into conflict. The situation dangerously elevates the frustration of people tired of war, occupation and economic deprivation. This ugly wound holds back progress in the Middle East, and inflames extremism throughout the world.

The time has come for genuine peace, a peace that resonates with both Palestinians and Israelis. Now more than ever, people need to see results: real security, viable independence, and a future of hope. Getting there requires that we focus sharply on the ultimate goals and principles of peace, and a planning process that sets a reasonable timeframe for those goals to be met. I believe that the parameters of the solution are there. At the recent Arab Summit in Beirut, Arab states articulated a new vision for peace. This initiative explicitly recognises the interests of Israel, while it fulfils Palestinian hopes, hopes to live freely, without occupation, in a sovereign state that encompasses the borders of the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The Arab vision is strongly balanced. Through a collective peace treaty with Arab states, Israel would receive the security guarantees it needs. Israel's Jewish character, security, legitimacy, international recognition, Arab acceptance, and peaceful future would all be positively addressed.

At the same time, Arab states would have their core requirements met: an end to the Israeli occupation of all Arab lands, the guarantee of independence, freedom, dignity, equality and security for the Palestinians, and a just and an agreed solution to the refugee question.

Through this initiative, Arabs address Israeli citizens as neighbours who deserve to live in dignity, security and peace. Israel's government cannot ignore this proposal. However, I know that success will also require international action. The fact is that, given present conditions, neither Israelis nor Palestinians are capable of taking the steps needed to reach a reasonable final compromise. We must not allow the process to become hostage to the whims of those who choose to obstruct peace.

Today, we urgently need Europe to take a leadership role. Last month in the United States, we called for a new peace alliance for the Middle East. Under its umbrella, an international coalition composed of the United States, Europe, Russia, Arab, and other countries, would provide the support – in security, economic, and political terms – that is needed by both Israelis and Palestinians. The alliance would have the moral and political leadership to broker a comprehensive, fair and lasting deal. Only this can persuade weary people, on both sides, to trust the road to peace.

My friends,

This parliament has an important part to play. Your history in breaking through the conflicts of centuries can provide a model for those who are trapped in today's cycle of violence.

You have the experience and infrastructure to solve problems through dialogue and interaction, assets that can help others learn new ways to handle the differences that separate them. Perhaps most important, as representatives of the people, you are close to those whose futures are most at stake.

For who would benefit more from world peace and prosperity, and who suffers more from world violence, than the people? To those who doubt that we will succeed, I refer once more to the father of Europe, Jean Monnet. "When one has decided on one's objective," he told us, "it is necessary to act without making assumptions about the risk of not succeeding. As long as you have not tried a thing, you cannot say that it is impossible."

"Quand on est déterminé sur l'objectif que l'on veut atteindre, il faut agir sans faire d'hypothèse sur le risque de ne pas aboutir. Aussi longtemps que vous ne l'avez pas essayé, vous ne pouvez pas dire qu'une chose est impossible."

Today, I know that peace is possible. But it cannot be achieved unless all of us act. Together, we can create a collective destiny that offers hope to all our people. But let us act now, let us act decisively, and let us make it real, not only for tomorrow's children, but for our own.

Thank you very much.