At the 40th Munich Conference on Security Policy
8 February 2004
Our topic, the future of the Middle East, and our dialogue are both important. Today, the Middle East is on the frontlines, perhaps it is the frontline, of a global struggle for peace and development. In solving long-term conflicts, in achieving genuine development and reform, in living up to the values of our faith and heritage; in all these ways the Arab world is engaged in a great enterprise. The results will impact the entire world. And we who are on that frontline look to the friends of peace and freedom for your support and partnership.
Today, I would like to give you a brief situation report. Let me begin with the core challenge: ending the Arab-Israeli conflict. Given the headlines from elsewhere in the region, some of you may wonder if this is, indeed, still at the core. Let me assure you, it remains central to the region and the world. No other conflict has cast such long shadows on our globe, or been used to cause such division, or promoted such bitterness. The time has come to put a stop to the long and hateful cycle of violence.
In fact, the contours of a historic reconciliation are before us. It involves a two-state solution, in which an independent Palestinian state lives in peaceful coexistence alongside a secure and recognised Israel within the 1967 frontiers. As you know, the Arab League collectively endorsed this proposal with full normalisation between the Arab countries and Israel. Mainstream Palestinians accept that the refugees' right of return must not undermine the demographic balance of Israel. Mainstream Israelis understand that they cannot be occupiers of another people.
A Palestinian capital in Eastern Jerusalem would be matched by an Israeli capital in Western Jerusalem. This is the unavoidable road to peace. The parties know it. And the extremists know it. They are doing what they can to stop forward movement. And with every day of delay, there is harm to the region and the world.
For us in Jordan, the crisis in Palestine is very near. From parts of my country, at night you can see the lights of Jerusalem. Every day, our people know the suffering that is going on. And we experience the destructive regional impact of the conflict. So, Jordan has been a leader in the search for peace. For decades, we have taken the risks that peace requires. And we are committed to helping achieve a real resolution.
But, friends, neither the parties, nor their neighbours, nor the region can do it alone. The international community has a crucial role. To achieve a just and lasting peace requires the active leadership of the United States, and more, it requires a collective international alliance for peace. We share a commitment to peace and stability. We share respect for human dignity and security. Now we must share the leadership in achieving these values. Such an alliance can secure the future of Palestine and Israel, bolster peace and stability in the Middle East and promote the security interests of free nations worldwide. It is time to act, and time to succeed.
This brings me to a second regional challenge, the challenge of development. Reports show that per capita income has actually shrunk in the Arab countries during the last 20 years. One of every five Arabs lives on less than $2 a day, and in the labour force, one in seven is unemployed. Youth, who are more than sixty percent of the population, can be especially vulnerable. When young people lose hope, they can turn to apathy or violence, and either course threatens the drive for reform and the move towards modernity.
It takes a collective Arab effort to address these issues. And, indeed, historic opportunities are before us. They include educational systems dedicated to excellence, responsive, transparent governance, a vigorous private sector that can harness the region's tremendous human potential and other positive programmes.
We look to ourselves to create our own future. But our friends around the globe can also make a vital contribution. When the international community supports those of us who are engaged in reform, when it supports development, it helps create a climate of justice and hope – the necessary environment for security in the region and the world.
Hope is not merely material. This leads me to say a few words about the Islamic faith that is central to Jordan's identity. Recent years have brought new dialogue in the West about the nature of Islam. Some believe that Muslims are forbidden from engaging constructively in the modern world. Jordanians will tell you that is untrue. From its earliest days, Islam pioneered a path that respected diversity and tolerance, promoted new ideas and empowered its people. This is the true Islam, and these values are why Jordanians speak out against hatred, why we were among the first to condemn 9/11 absolutely and without reservation, and why we have taken the lead against extremism and terrorism.
Jordanians partake of a special heritage: From our soil, the Levant, faith in one God, the united belief of Judaism, Christianity and Islam took root and spread across the world. I believe that what is taking root in the Middle East today can also impact the world. If we succeed, and success will require all of us, this may be a century in which billions more people have access to the world's promise.
No discussion of the future of the Middle East can be complete without addressing the prospects for Iraq. Here as well it is urgent that the friends of freedom win the peace. That means more than replacing the old failed structure. There must be sustainable security, security in which Iraqis are able to resolve their own problems peacefully. It is not a question of how fast an election is held, but how well the governing institutions are built. It is the substance, not the pace of change that will ultimately define success.
As Iraq's neighbours, we bear a specific responsibility: to do all that is in our capability, to help the men and women of Iraq achieve the foundations for self-determination. This is the path to a free and prospering future, one that can benefit Iraqis and help opportunity flourish across the region. It is the path to Iraq's historic place: a great country, of knowledge and opportunities, within the family of Arab and Middle Eastern nations.
We are now well on our way into a new century. It was entered, in the words of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, “Through a gate of fire.” Ahead lies the promise of freedom, human rights, global justice and development – if we make the right decisions now.
Those who believe in peace must stand together. To you, I say: you can count on Jordan. As we fight against terror, we are also working to deliver on something better, the promise of moderation, freedom and reform. We are working for new hope, hope for a future of prosperity and peace. As that future takes root and flourishes in my region, it will spread its benefits throughout the world.
In a recent speech, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “We fight terrorism because we must, but we seek a better world because we can”. And I am sure that you all agree, for the aspirations of men and women across the world are much the same, and so should their opportunities be. We must now deliver on that promise, and work together to face the risks and the new dangers.
Jordan is reaching out to you on this agenda. We want your support, but we also want to support you in the march towards our common goals. For what we are facing, is indeed, a shared destiny but more importantly, a shared commitment for freedom, security and peace.
Thank you very much.