King calls for peace on eve of 1967 war anniversary

04 June 2008

His Majesty King Abdullah on Wednesday said that war remains a consistent feature in the Middle East, even as conflict has been relegated to the annals of history for most of the developed world.

Speaking at Oxford University on the eve of the anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, King Abdullah noted that June 4, 1967, marked "the last day a Palestinian lived free of occupation", while Israel has faced 41 years of incessant conflict.

"While the conflict continues, people on both sides lose," he said. "It is time to help people win. For Palestinians, justice and a future, in an independent, sovereign and viable state. For Israelis, recognition and security - a security that isolation, behind walls and military forces, can never bring".

The King was speaking upon his acceptance of an honorary degree from Oxford University. The Doctor of Civil Law by Diploma, presented to King Abdullah by Lord Patten of Barnes, the university chancellor, is the highest honorary degree awarded to foreign heads of state by the university.

Addressing Oxford faculty, staff and students, as well as London-based diplomats, King Abdullah said that Europe, especially the United Kingdom, can make a critical contribution to conflict resolution, as honest brokers in negotiations, as sources of security support and as investors in the Palestinian economy.

"Your efforts will send a global message to young people, young Muslims especially, that the international community can and will deliver on its promise of justice and hope," he said.

The King also urged more international support for the region's development, noting poverty, unemployment and literacy as some of the region's most urgent challenges.

"Over the next few years, there needs to be wide-scale, tangible solutions to the issues that affect people's lives: Community development, access to healthcare, affordable energy, secure water resources, good schools, gender equality and jobs, jobs, jobs," he said.

The King said that left unchecked, these issues could render the region a "source of radiating crisis", rather than a contributor to world stability, adding that Jordan is working to confront these issues head-on by making a major commitment to development and reform.

"We look to those who understand the stakes to join with us," he said.

Upon receiving the degree, King Abdullah said he accepted the honour as one for all Jordanians.

"It is they who inspire me [through] their achievement and tenacity, their hard work, and their loyalty to our nation," he said.

In remarks at the event, Chancellor Patten expressed his admiration for King Abdullah as a man of courage, vision and relentless pursuit of peace in the Middle East.

Their Majesties King Abdullah and Queen Rania are on a several-day working visit to the UK.

At Oxford University on Wednesday, King Abdullah also accepted an honorary fellowship from Pembroke College, where he studied for a year, and toured the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, an institution dedicated to scholarly understanding of Islam and Islamic culture.

During his visit, the King was due to hold talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other senior officials to discuss current developments in the Middle East, particularly on the Palestinian front and the situation in Iraq, and means to enhance bilateral relations.