Interview with His Majesty King Abdullah II

Saad Silawi
Talk Show
11 October 2002
(Translated from Arabic)

MBC: Welcome to a new episode of this week's “Talk Show”. Our show this evening is special and distinguished by the grand presence of His Majesty King Abdullah II, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Welcome Your Majesty. Thank you for this honour, and closeness to MBC, which never ceases to hold utmost respect and appreciation for Your Majesty.

Allow me to begin with the hottest issue - the Palestinian subject. For years, the peace process has been stopped and Israel has reoccupied the Palestinian cities and villages. The situation is extremely grave. In Your Majesty's opinion, how best can this situation be averted?

King Abdullah: First, all military action should cease, and a return to the negotiations should be made, from the stage it had last reached, based upon international legitimacy and decisions, and the Arab initiative. We have to be realistic, neither Palestinians nor Israelis will get 100 per cent of their demands. The world is now convinced that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands should be terminated, and a Palestinian state should be established on Palestinian lands. But, this conviction is not enough. In Jordan, all our moves and contacts with effective states in the world, including the US, Russia, China, EU, UN, were to reiterate to them the importance of having a time frame for the establishment of a Palestinian state. I believe that the world has begun to realise our point of view and consider the issue of a time frame. By the way, some Arab brethren, and perhaps some Palestinians, seem to be unsatisfied with the level of Arab support the Palestinians are receiving. Some Arabs criticise the moves that Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are undertaking and their contacts with the Quartet committee in this regard. Let us be more open and direct here, had it not been for His Excellency Prince Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz's initiative and our efforts with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, there would not have been any talk of a three years’ time frame for the establishment of the Palestinian state.

MBC: Your Majesty, there is talk of a Jordanian role in the final-status settlement of the Palestinian cause or in the form and content of the Palestinian state. Some also talk of a confederation or federation between Jordan and the Palestinian state.

King Abdullah: I said more than once that Jordan will not be party to a Palestinian cause settlement, except on the issue of refugees. Jordan will not speak in the name of Palestinians or on their behalf. Jordan's role is to support the Palestinian brethren till they retrieve their rights and establish their independent state on their national soil, with Jerusalem as its capital. We support the Palestinian leadership and respect their decisions, and we would not interfere in any way in the Palestinian decisions. The Palestinian leadership is the only (authorized) decision maker, and the only authority that bears the responsibility of its decision, in front of its own people, nation, and the world.

MBC: The confederation, Your Majesty?

King Abdullah: On the subject of the future relation between the two brotherly peoples, it will be that of cooperation between Jordan and the independent Palestinian state upon its establishment. We do not accept any talk on the limits of this cooperation - before the establishment of the independent state or on the confederation. Such rhetoric is not considered by us at all, not in the present nor in the future. Opening this subject is an attempt to plant seeds of strife and suspicion between the two peoples. It is also an attempt to interfere in the Palestinian decision and the Jordanian decision at the same time.

MBC: Your Majesty, there are fears that Israel may enforce a wave of a Palestinian transfer towards Jordan. What is the Jordanian position in this regard?

King Abdullah: We know that the Palestinian people and leadership are well aware of the dangers of this subject. The Palestinian people have more consciousness, strength and steadfastness on their land, than under any other circumstance that Israel may impose on them. In Jordan we realise the extent of suffering and hardships endured by Palestinians under occupation. It is our duty to support their steadfastness and permanence on their lands. As a result, we have affirmed in all our contacts and travels all over the world, the importance of offering support, and financial aid to our Palestinian brethren to upgrade the standard of living of the ordinary Palestinian, improve his life, and subsequently promote his steadfastness on his soil. At the end, our borders will be impenetrable in the face of compulsory transfer of our Palestinian brethren or expelling them from their lands.

MBC: Your Majesty, therefore, what would be your advice to the Palestinian leadership at this critical stage?

King Abdullah: The issue is not that of advice. The Palestinian leadership is fully aware of the Palestinian people's interests and more so, than the Palestinian people themselves. The Palestinian leadership takes Palestinian decisions and we will support any decision they would reach. I believe that any reforms of the Palestinian Authority would enhance the world's compassion and support for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

MBC: Allow me, Your Majesty, to move to another hot issue: Iraq. It has become the focus of all; indications lead to the probability of an American strike on Iraq. What is Jordan's position regarding this issue?

King Abdullah: Jordan's position is clear and well known. We have explained to the American administration our position clearly and openly. We believe that settling the Iraq issue should be through dialogue with the UN, or amongst directly concerned parties in this issue, and with no resort to military action or a new war in the region, which would have devastating results on the peoples of the whole region.

MBC: This is a clear position and a warning that may increase concerns for the future, what is coming, but the question is, will Jordan allow the use of its lands as a launching pad for American forces striking Iraq?

King Abdullah: Jordan has never been, and will never be a launch pad, or a base to any forces attempting to strike any Arab country. The American administration knows our position very clearly.

MBC: We remain on the Iraq issue. Frankly, Your Majesty, some media spoke clearly in the aftermath of HRH Prince Hassan's attendance of the Iraqi opposition conference, of a future return of the Hashemites to Iraq, and of a future role for the Hashemites in Iraq?

King Abdullah: First of all, the Iraqi people are the only people who have the right to choose their own leadership. I believe that the common logic in our world at the moment is rejecting the imposition by any side of a leadership, on any people. The leadership of any people should emerge from their midst. Jordan is not considering any role in Iraq whatsoever. We are always committed not to interfere in the internal affairs of any neighbouring, friendly or brethren state, and expect others to treat us on the same lines. But if you are referring to the Hashemite household, I am the head of this household and clearly state herewith, that the Hashemites have no ambitions to return to govern Iraq. If any individual who belongs to this family thinks otherwise, he represents only himself.

MBC: It is a known fact that Jordan depends 100 per cent on Iraqi oil, which is sold to Jordan at preferential prices. This sole source is now threatened by discontinuation. What is the alternative in Your Majesty's point of view, in case this source runs dry?

King Abdullah: During the second Gulf war in 1991, Jordan was not deprived of its oil supplies from Iraq, despite all the circumstances that prevailed then. If the circumstance arise during a military operation that the Iraqi oil stops reaching Jordan, some international arrangement should be made to guarantee supplying Jordan with this commodity. By the way, oil is an accessible commodity in all markets and one can buy it.

MBC: Jordan will therefore approach the international or Arab market in case of such discontinuation. But this, Your Majesty, is not the only problem. There is the Iraqi refugee problem. What is Jordan's position towards Iraqi refugees in case of war?

King Abdullah: Jordan will not accept any influx of Iraqi or other refugees. We will not allow the setting up of camps for any refugee, whether of Iraqior any other nationality, on Jordanian soil. If we are considering here the passage of refugees to their homelands through Jordan, such camps should be erected on Iraqi lands. We will not allow them to stop or remain on Jordanian soil.

MBC: Allow me to move on to internal affairs, the most prominent of which is the parliamentary elections. Your Majesty said that elections will take place according to schedule but do you expect the next parliamentary elections to promote a Parliament “better” than the previous one? And do you expect the coming Parliament to comprise a better representation of all society segments and political affiliations?

King Abdullah: On my part, what is important is that elections should be conducted with utmost fairness, transparency and ease. My hope is that every Jordanian would exercise his or her right in these elections. Such a right is a national duty that each and everyone should perform. In this occasion I call upon all Jordanians to consider the higher national interest, when selecting their representatives, and ensuring that their representative should have integrity, sense of belonging, ability, education and knowledge, he/she can comprehend our comprehensive developmental programmes, and complete the building of our modern state. In brief, these elections should be national, bearing a national Jordanian agenda, and within the frame of the slogan “Jordan first.”

MBC: Your Majesty, the parties movement and this number of parties, reminds me of a well known saying of your late father, His Majesty King Hussein, when he described the numerous parties in Jordan, by saying, “..jamming obstructs movement.” But what about the parties movement as viewed by His Majesty King Abdullah II, in the democratic Jordanian course, especially since some of these parties are organically and strongly linked to Arab parties in other Arab states?

King Abdullah: In Jordan, we have a large number of parties. I would have wished that they unite in two or three main parties, being right, left and the centre. This would ensure that each party has an identity of its own, with clear programmes and aims.

What is more valid than all this, is that any Jordanian party should carry out Jordanian programmes and aims, and Jordan should be its main term of reference. But if parties have non-Jordanian terms of reference or are affiliated and funded externally, this will not be acceptable at all. Let me give you an example. The Communist Party in Jordan, stems from the Communist Party in many countries, the Baath Party in Jordan stems from the Iraqi or Syrian Baath Party, the Islamic Front (party), has connections with the Islamic parties in many countries around the world. For the sake of fairness, the Islamic current in Jordan, and the Muslim Brothers in particular, were very devoted to the interests of Jordan. But unfortunately, there are links between this party and other parties outside Jordan.

What is needed is that each party should have its own programmes and clear aims that contribute to the national course. And what is more important is that such parties should be Jordanian in their programmes, aims, sense of belonging and funding, and that these parties should bear the conviction of “Jordan first”.

In short, we, in Jordan, are keen to fulfil our commitments towards our Arab nation and just causes but not at the cost of Jordan's interest. My duty as a responsible person and leader is to safeguard the interests of my people and country, and to provide for their well-being, to each and every Jordanian before any other matter. We all know that Jordan has in past decades put Arab interests before its own national ones. I believe that it is our right in Jordan, to think of our own interests, and those of our people first, just as is the case of our brethren, and as is the case in all countries, and in this concern we reiterate our motto, “Jordan first”.

MBC: We realise that Your Majesty has many engagements but allow me to ask you one final question, which is the media campaigns against Jordan. In Your Majesty's view -- these campaigns surface every now and then -- why so, and why is Jordan targeted?

King Abdullah: By the way, Jordan is not alone in this subjection to dubious media campaigns. Egypt faces similar campaigns, despite its honourable positions and great sacrifices. Saudi Arabia also, despite its great Arab patriotic and Islamic positions, has been subjected to similar campaigns. The strange matter is these campaigns…its source for the three states is one. We know who stands behind them, their aims and targets. It is not worth any consideration or thought. A fruit-bearing tree is always stoned by people.

MBC: At the end of this interview, we thank His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on this special interview with MBC. Thank you, Your Majesty.

King Abdullah: Thank you sir.