Before the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly
Dead Sea, Jordan
11 October 2008
(Delivered by Prime Minister Nader Dahabi)
Thank you for your kind welcome. It is my honour to address this distinguished assembly today and to welcome you to Jordan on behalf of His Majesty King Abdullah.
President Pottering and Speaker Majali, I extend my deepest gratitude to both of you and the members of the Assembly's Bureau, for your efforts in the course of convening this important gathering of parliamentarians from both sides of the Mediterranean.
Last December, His Majesty King Abdullah addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg. There, he outlined a vision of the future of the Middle East and its relationship with Europe.
"Today," he said, "we can think of a larger neighbourhood, one that stretches from north of the Baltic Sea to south of the Mediterranean, one that is shared by Europe and the Middle East. It is the basis of the Euro-Med Partnership, our region-to-region platform for cooperation and development. It is a relationship with great shared interests and unlimited potential. And it is up to us to develop our partnership to its fullest."
This was the vision shared by many in Europe, too. And in July, the countries of Europe and the Mediterranean took a bold step towards the development of this partnership. The launch of the Union for the Mediterranean earlier this year, and the opportunity it represents to the people of two continents, is of historic importance. On behalf of His Majesty King Abdullah and the people of Jordan, I thank you, the members of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly, for the energetic support you have lent to initiating a new phase in Euro-Med relations. Jordan looks forward to working in partnership with the European Union institutions in translating this valuable initiative into concrete results for our people.
The Mediterranean region today is in real need of a common effort to confront challenges to development, especially in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa. These challenges occur in the vital areas of water, infrastructure and energy. Today, our requirement for energy at levels that would sustain our rapid development is severely challenged. The region's demand for water is also rising rapidly in tandem with a growing population and increasingly dangerous water scarcity. Our participation in the global economy will remain limited until we have a transport and communications infrastructure that supports trade relations across the region. The Union for the Med has established a pragmatic framework. Through it we can - together - begin to meet these challenges.
But we cannot lose sight of one key fact: the most critical challenge to the region's development is conflict. And our efforts as partners will be for naught unless Middle East peace remains our top priority.
In our region, we simply cannot imagine common solutions to our common water problems in the absence of peace. But far too many people can imagine a day when water becomes another source of conflict. We cannot realize comprehensive regional economic integration when conflict practically excludes some partners from participation. We cannot develop a regional free trade area when conflict blocks the development of the necessary infrastructure. But, unless we do achieve these things, we can predict economic stagnation… and its fallout: unemployment, poverty, brain-drain, declining levels of education and health standards; frustration, hopelessness, anger.
If conflict and under-development are not to become mutually reinforcing, we must address conflict, beginning with the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, the region's core conflict.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Next month, we will mark a year since Palestinian and Israeli leaders met in Annapolis, Maryland, with the support of the European Union and nations from both our regions. There, the parties pledged all-out negotiations towards a peace treaty in 2008 and both sides - Palestinians and Israelis - committed themselves to the two-state solution as the only solution capable of securing the justice and security they both seek. And for the first time in years, we began to see modest movement toward a permanent and just settlement to this conflict.
This progress reflects the commitment of many friends of peace, including leaders in Europe and the Arab states who have urged the parties on. And it speaks, once again, to the importance of international support, at every level, for the peace process: without it, the parties just can't bridge the gaps. International engagement lends confidence and credibility to the process, facilitating difficult decision-making. It brings fresh perspectives on conflict resolution to those bogged down in day-to-day conflict management. And it is now more critical than ever before. That is because the most difficult negotiations are still before Palestinian and Israeli leaders, while public confidence in the peace process is at an all-time low.
The fact is, success at the negotiating table has not been matched by on-the-ground improvements in the lives of those directly affected by conflict, especially for Palestinians. Israeli settlement building continues on Palestinian land. Palestinian communities are dissected by walls and roadblocks, choking off economic activity and social and familial ties. Human suffering, wrought by violence and siege, persists as a daily reality for millions of people, Palestinian and Israeli.
An infusion of hope is needed. And this assembly has an important role to play in ensuring that it is delivered. First, by helping keep international political leaders focused on this critical issue, at a time when other global crises also demand attention. Second, by encouraging the mobilization of resources needed to offset humanitarian crisis. And third, by advocating and supporting partnerships - to boost economic opportunity, to deliver effective public services and reliable infrastructure, to expand access to education and health care. Improving basic conditions of life will not only help create confidence in the political process; it will also help create the conditions that will sustain peace over the long-term.
In this room are those, from both the Middle East and Europe, who have vivid memories of conflict, part of a shared history. Among our children, there is no shared historical narrative: the horror of war is alien to the young Europeans coming of age today; for the young people of the Middle East, violence remains a daily fact of life.
But what we know is that people throughout the Middle East and Europe hope for peace, for Arabs and Israelis. Arabs and Israelis, like Europeans, long for opportunity and prosperity. They seek a shared narrative of the future.
As elected representatives, you embody the aspirations of hundreds of millions of people, and you have consistently taken an honourable stand in support of their hopes. Today, the voice of this assembly is needed more than ever to help create and sustain the momentum towards a just and lasting peace, towards development and prosperity… and towards the future to which the people of Europe and the Middle East aspire.
Again on behalf of His Majesty King Abdullah, I welcome you to Jordan, and wish you success in your discussions.