Before the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
7 November 2006
Members of the House,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am greatly honoured to be with you today, and thank you all for your warm welcome.It has been almost exactly five years since I was last before you. We live in a time of extraordinary change and great danger.
Violence continues in Afghanistan and Iraq. Terrorists have hit London, Amman, Madrid, New York and other cities. The occupation and humanitarian crisis in Palestine is ongoing. Lebanon needs the international community's full support to rebuild and maintain its national unity.
We can work together for a world of law and progress - where our people live and thrive in safety. We must choose carefully and remember that we - and our children - have to live in the world that we create.
Nowhere are our choices more important than in the Middle East. My region plays multiple strategic roles in 21st century security. It is the spiritual home of three historic religions - two of which, Christianity and Islam, make up more than half of the world's people. We are Europe's closest neighbours. Our people have lived together for thousands of years. Together, we nurtured most of what the world now views as civilisation and science. Our region has long been a nexus of global trade, and is now, crucial for energy production.
Our region needs stability and peace, for our own sakes, and yours. Yet, in the Middle East, the frequency and intensity of crises are increasing at an alarming rate. This is occurring alongside other important changes in the regional environment that are opening the doors to extremists and expansionist regional actors.
Walking away from these challenges is not an option. Their impact extends to every corner of the world. We must confront these dangers, think in new ways about how peace and progress can be achieved - and act.
Let me speak first about the conflict in Iraq. The situation on the ground today is untenable. Persistent hostilities have delayed economic and political reconstruction. Sectarian violence and terrorism are driving the death toll higher. Both of our countries have also sacrificed greatly. I do not need to tell you how much Britain has given. Jordan has absorbed thousands escaping conflict. And, as you know, from Iraq, terror was exported to our capital one year ago.
Today, we should share the goal of restoring Iraq as a sovereign, secure, and unified nation with a home-grown democratic government that will respect the rights of all communities and a reconstructed infrastructure and economy that can offer people freedom and hope. Without these, we will not enjoy lasting stability.
We cannot attain that objective from a fragmented Iraq. Indeed, sectarian division is likely to bring worse violence, both in the near and in the long term. In a land weakened by division, the field would be open to extremists seeking influence in the Middle East and beyond. Such a situation would raise the potential for dangerous arms races and competition - threatening the region, its neighbours, and the world.
This means we cannot allow federalism to become a quick-fix solution to a complex problem. But we need renewed emphasis on non-military initiatives to help preserve Iraq's unity. Insecure areas cannot be stabilised by force. Such stability comes only when all groups have confidence in a process that gives them a voice, assures them justice, and provides for their security. We cannot afford to miss a single political, economic, or diplomatic opening.
An urgent priority is reconciliation, so that leaders from the three major communities can meet face to face, find common ground, and create home-grown, effective solutions. The historic suffering of Kurds and Shiites must be acknowledged; as must that of the Sunnis today. All Iraqis also need clear affirmation that the new Iraq will respect their rights and security.
Finally, Iraq needs creative thinking about political and economic incentives that give armed groups a reason to put down their arms and move into the political process. Under the right conditions, some of them could be absorbed into key state institutions.
The international community can play a significant role in devising creative strategies towards the fulfilment of these goals. It is vital for the friends of peace not to abandon Iraq to chaos. We in the region are deeply committed to a sovereign Iraq, in charge of its own security and future. But for the world to disengage when events are at a critical point would have serious unintended consequences. It would discourage the thousands of Iraqis who face the daily risks in building a new Iraq.
If there is any doubt about the risk of turning a blind eye to conflict in Iraq, we need only consider the other major crisis in the region, the oldest active conflict on the UN's books. This conflict has destroyed lives for three generations, fuelled global misunderstanding and division, and provided a recruiting tool for terrorists worldwide. I refer of course to the continuing denial of Palestinian rights, the core source of regional conflict.
Here again, the situation on the ground is at a critical stage. There has been no effective political process between Palestinians and Israelis for five years. The vision of the peace partners remains unfulfilled. In the absence of a genuine move towards peace, people in our region are questioning the validity of a peace process at all. Palestinian society is divided in an unprecedented manner. On both sides, we hear calls for a settlement by force.
But force is a recipe for failure. As in Iraq, if it continues unchecked, we can expect a situation that is far more radical and uncontrollable and many more years of violence before the parties get back to the peace tables, if ever.
The situation is not hopeless. But we must act. The Arab states understand this well. In 2002, we announced a breakthrough peace proposal that offered a way to reach both sides with what they want and need. Today, we are more determined to support an effective process. My friends, this is an opening that must not be ignored.
Now we need measurable progress towards a clear objective: two secure states, at peace with each other and the region. The Arab Peace Initiative promises security guarantees for Israel, a sovereign, viable, and independent Palestine and a process that would lead to a comprehensive settlement. It is the basis for practical results: a clear end game and an effective process that can reach it. It is in full accord with international legality. It has the acceptance of all Arab states and the Palestinians. I ask the international community to join us in resolving this crisis once and for all.
Great Britain has an important international leadership role. Your country has a special relationship with Jordanians, Palestinians, and other Arabs, as well as with Israel. You play a key role in the European Union and in trans-Atlantic relations. Your unique vantage point is a valuable asset that can be leveraged to bring about a meeting of minds. And your leadership is needed today as never before, to relight our vision for the future. Our fates are inseparably tied. Our partnership is crucial.
In years past, I have gone to coalition partners, as an ally and a friend, to talk about the dangers of ignoring events in the Middle East. I urged friends not to accept the violent status quo in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I spoke frankly and on the record about the dangerous consequences of war in Iraq.
Now I come to speak again, about the dangers of failing to achieve peace in the Middle East - whether in Iraq or Palestine. As neighbours, as partners, for the sake of our people, for peace and coexistence, we must find another way, an effective way forward.
Thank you very much