At the State Banquet Hosted by Their Majesties King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia
20 October 1999
Your Majesty King Juan Carlos,
Your Majesty Queen Sofia,
Prime Minister Aznar,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is with a deep sense of joy and nostalgia that Rania and my accompanying delegation join me in thanking Your Majesties for the wonderful hospitality and kind reception, which we have become accustomed to over the years.
As I stand here I remember the many times His late Majesty King Hussein stood here to express to you Jordan's closeness to Spain, and the warm personal feelings he had for Your Majesties. He always considered Your Majesty a dear brother.
You will always be a brother to all of us in Jordan, a friend, a statesman and a leader with a record for the selfless pursuit, not only of Spain's interest, but that of humanity. We will always remember Madrid as the capital of hope, where the all-important transformation of my part of the world began: from the scourge of war to the horizon of peace.
Our visit to Spain comes only a few weeks after Prime Minister Aznar and Mrs Aznar visited us in Jordan. During their visit they heard from us, and from every Jordanian they met, of the very high and special regard with which Spain is held in Jordan and throughout the Arab world. Spain's unique standing is, among other factors, the result of a mixture of a great culture coupled with an inspired leadership that has created an international niche for Spanish presence both on the international and the humanitarian fronts. We look forward to this ever-important role as a bridge between the Arab world and Europe. I remember my last meeting with His Majesty the late King Hassan of Morocco, only one month before his passing, in which he expressed to me his great fondness for Spain and his wish to build a bridge to join both continents through your two countries.
Spain has played an important role in the Middle East peace process. In this respect, it has been a shining beacon in the face of darkness and oppression. Jordan is a country whose outlook and position are a mirror image of Spain's in terms of democracy, pluralism, human rights, the pursuit of peace and prosperity, and the belief in the peaceful solutions of unresolved conflicts through dialogue. It was within this spirit that my country always believed in negotiating a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, on the basis of the relevant Security Council resolutions and the return of all occupied lands in exchange for a true peace: a just, durable and comprehensive peace that will end decades of destruction and bloodshed.
As I stand here in the capital where the peace process started, I am happy to see that all our hard work has not been in vain. The process, once again, is moving, and the countries have returned to the principles which came out of Madrid. The Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty, the Oslo Accord and the implementation of the Hebron, Wye, and Sharm El Sheikh agreements are a testament to the success of the process. We are confident that negotiations on the Syrian-Israeli track will be restarted from where they left off in 1996, under the capable leadership of President Hafez Al Assad and Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who won the Israeli elections on the platform of peace. This has sent a resounding and encouraging message that countries in the Middle East want to see the new millennium as the beginning of a new chapter in which construction, not destruction; life, not death; happiness, not tragedy; hope, not despair; will be prevalent in the Middle East again.
My country has suffered tremendously, and has paid a very heavy price, due to the struggle in our part of the world, and Jordan's conviction that all citizens of the world should live a life of freedom and dignity. We are now in the process of trying to tackle our foreign debt issue, as well as the problems of poverty and unemployment, and with the support and assistance of our friends, proceed with our economic reform program.
On this occasion, may I, Your Majesty, thank Prime Minister Aznar and the members of his government for their understanding of our situation, and their continued cooperation with my government.
Not only do Jordan and Spain share in their quest for peace and prosperity for their peoples, but also in their firm belief in democracy and liberalisation. We will take steps to ensure that democracy is not just a set of laws establishing the framework for political activity, but a process embedded in our daily practice. We will make special efforts to meet the country's economic challenges, continuing the process of liberalising our economy and transforming it from one that was heavily dependent on outside resources to one that is self reliant and self sustaining.
A few weeks ago our parliament ratified the European Union Association Agreement and passed several laws pertaining to satisfying the requirements of joining the WTO, accelerating the process of privatisation and of creating an environment that is even more conducive to local and foreign investments. We have much to learn from your success stories and experiences.
Jordan is, and will remain, an Arab country that is proud of its history and heritage. We are interested in maintaining good relations with the Arab world and countries of the region, relations that are based on mutual respect and the desire to build a prosperous and peaceful Middle East.
We look forward to exchanging ideas, consulting with you and receiving your invaluable advice. For you are our - and Jordan's - great friend. We are happy and honoured by the special relationship that joins us.
In closing, may I, Your Majesty, thank you and your government for your steadfast and continuous support. I thank you once again for giving Rania and myself the opportunity to be with you and to meet members of your government and parliament. I hope that you will give us, and the people and government of Jordan, the honour of welcoming you in Jordan; and may the bonds and friendships between Spain and Jordan soar to new heights.
May I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, to join me and Queen Rania in saluting Their Majesties King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, and Spanish-Jordanian friendship.