At the World Affairs Council of Northern California Commonwealth Club of San Francisco
San Francisco, California, US
11 December 2004
As you know, I was in Washington earlier this week, discussing with President Bush and others, urgent next steps in the Middle East. I'd like to briefly share some thoughts with you, and then I hope we'll have the opportunity for some Q and A.
When I was here in San Francisco last April, I suggested that the time had come for real breakthroughs in the Middle East. Today, it is clear we have reached a moment of great potential. Elections are scheduled both in the Palestinian Territories and in Iraq. Israel is wrestling with disengagement. The Quartet – that’s the US, Europe, Russia and the UN – has recommitted to the road map peace process. Meanwhile, throughout the region, there is movement toward reform and development.
Experience teaches us that historic breakthroughs are easier to spot after the fact than before. But this much is certain: the next few critical months will set the course and speed of progress in my region for a long time to come. A promising but extremely tough journey has begun. Its success will require the full and active support of the international community. You might say, the boat is pulling away from the pier. We need every friend of peace and progress to be on board.
The United States has a central leadership role. No where is it more important than in meeting the region's core challenge: the Arab-Israeli conflict. This cycle of violence remains the key barrier to stability and progress in my region. It has bred global anger and extremist violence. The parties, the region, and the world all urgently need a just and comprehensive solution – one that ends the suffering of Palestinians and Israelis … opens the doors to new progress in the region … and restores faith in the international system of justice.
As many of you know, the groundwork is there. In 2002 in Beirut, Arab countries committed themselves to a landmark comprehensive two-state solution. Its terms are straightforward. A sovereign, democratic and viable Palestine. Security guarantees for Israel to live in peace with its neighbours. And a process that leads to a comprehensive settlement, addressing the Syrian and Lebanese tracks.
In June of 2002, at an historic meeting with President Bush in Aqaba, the parties agreed. The roadmap plan was endorsed by the G-8 countries and the Quartet. And let me say just a word about the roadmap process. In all my discussions in the months before the Aqaba meetings, I argued that for the peace process to succeed, it must win trust on the ground. That demands visible, timely results. All of you know how much business benefits from performance benchmarks, milestones and real accountability. Well, we who seek peace need to mean business. This is why the roadmap insists on, must insist on, measurable, concrete results, leading to a final settlement in a specific time-frame.
I don't need to tell you that the process has missed some milestones. And that should not be acceptable to anyone. Because every day of continued violence serves the enemies of Palestine's democratic development and Israel's ultimate security.
It is time to move seriously toward the two-state solution which is the basis for lasting peace. That calls for action and compromise on both sides. Israel's disengagement plan can be a constructive part of the roadmap, but it is only part. The world is looking to Israel to recommit to the roadmap, and to take real confidence-building measures towards peace. The Palestinians also must meet the challenge of responsible leadership. That means delivering on the reforms that statehood involves – good governance, effective security and a real partnership at the peace tables.
The upcoming Palestinian elections can be a crucial milestone. They need our support. I met with the European Commission last month and with leadership in Washington this week. I asked for all possible assistance for Palestinians, including reconstruction, reform and the election process. I am pleased and hopeful about the positive response.
The Arab-Israeli conflict is, of course, not the only regional focus of concern. Violence and chaos in Iraq is a threat not only to that country's future but to the world's. Regional and global stability demands a rebuilt and democratic Iraq. To achieve that, the international community must be an active partner, not just in humanitarian assistance, but in helping Iraq achieve security and reconciliation. That includes practical, effective measures to rebuild political institutions, restore a functioning economy and restore trust.
Iraq urgently needs a legitimate and inclusive political system. It is important that the upcoming elections be held as soon as possible – and it is also important that they be inclusive. To build confidence, majority rule must be coupled with minority rights. Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis should hold sacred Iraq's Arab allegiance. And all Iraqis should reject any interference in Iraq's internal affairs.
Let's keep the goal in sight: a sovereign, pluralistic, violence-free Iraq that gives its people a future. It is in all our interests – and it is the right thing to do – to work together to support and assist that process.
As a close neighbour, Jordan is committed to doing all it can to assist and support Iraq's future. For us, this is part of a larger responsibility: to promote unity, stability and development throughout the Arab world.
A better future for our region depends on reform: good governance, economic growth and national development. Such action must emerge from within the region itself. Imposing a process from outside cannot generate the commitment that real change requires. But the international community can help reform grow and succeed, by partnering with us as we move forward.
In Jordan, the reform process is well underway. Our country has made structural changes to embed human rights and build democratic political life. In the economy, we have encouraged innovation and partnership with the private sector. Jordan was the first Arab country to sign a free trade area agreement with the US, and that agreement has already contributed significantly to economic growth and opportunity.
Our vision is of an open, modern civil society rooted in true Arab-Islamic values: tolerance and respect for others; belief in the rule of law; the equal dignity of all people and the pursuit of excellence. Some of you may know that last month we issued the Amman Message, a major statement on Islam. It spells out the clear Quranic authority for moderation, tolerance and peace. A Jordanian conference on the Amman Message brought in religious leaders and teachers from around the world. In Europe, Muslim leaders told me the Message was essential to counter the false teachings of extremists. These are just a few steps toward giving moderate Islam the worldwide voice and pre-eminence it deserves.
From religious scholars and private entrepreneurs, from teachers and social workers and high-tech professionals – the Arab world is being built by creative people, working hard to fulfil the promise of our region. Our future is in their hands. You can help them, you can help the world we share, through your partnership and support.
Together we can create a world in which peace is real; in which every human being can thrive; in which all share the promise of our century. I believe we can succeed.
Thank you very much.