Hope of peace in the Middle East

Op-Ed by His Majesty King Abdullah II
Le Monde
22 February 2005

Earlier this month, I traveled to Sharm El Sheikh to co-host the summit at which Palestinian President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Sharon pledged to re-energise the roadmap to peace in the Middle East. Shortly afterwards, I picked up the telephone to finalize arrangements to meet this week with President Chirac in Paris. My phone call recognised the vital role of France in shaping a positive future for my region and all humanity: a future of new hope, real peace, and global liberty.

At Sharm El Sheikh, the world observed sincere commitment. But history shows that words can only be a beginning. Now and in the days ahead, the possibilities of peace must be made real, and that will require courage, compromise, and hard work. The friends of peace urgently need support from the international community. And no nation has more influence in that cause than France, with its historical prestige, fairness, and respect for other nations.

Global support for peace is more than a moral obligation. The Arab-Israeli conflict remains the region's central crisis, causing immense suffering and destruction, and holding back regional development. The conflict has also had an explosive global impact, helping terrorists and extremists to foment cultural and religious tensions across the world. Peace is thus a global cause. And today, with French support, a roadmap for peace exists. It reflects the breakthrough peace initiatives by Arab nations at the Beirut Summit of 2002, and has been endorsed by the Quartet parties (Europe, Russia, the UN and the US) and the G-8 industrial nations.

The roadmap provides for a comprehensive, two-state solution, the only kind of peace that can endure: a sovereign, democratic and viable Palestine; security guarantees for Israel; and a process that leads to a comprehensive settlement that addresses the Syrian and Lebanese tracks. The roadmap provides for justice and security, bringing together the entire region, from Morocco to Yemen, in a healing process of reconciliation and hope.

We must now work together to deliver upon that promise. France has a leading role to play within Europe and the world in ensuring the peace process is resumed effectively, as well as in supporting the efforts of President Abbas and his government to create the institutions needed for peace, security and development. One important opportunity to assist will come at the London Conference in March, which will organise international assistance for Palestinian efforts to build democratic institutions, and will also discuss the economic support, public and private, needed to give Palestinians a new future of hope. As we look ahead to this meeting, as well as the Arab League Summit in Algiers, I welcome a continued close dialogue with President Chirac.

The Arab-Israeli peace process is, of course, only one area where our partnership is urgently needed. Jordan and France share an interest in supporting Lebanon's peaceful, democratic future. We are also working together to help Iraq achieve security and normalisation, and rebuild the country. The success of Iraq's recent elections was an important step, but we must encourage participation to continue in writing the constitution and in the elections that will be held at the end of this year. Jordan is also determined to support France in its concerns. We were proud to have played a role in securing the release of French hostages last year, and we are again doing our utmost to secure the release of the French journalist currently being held in captivity.

The efforts to end conflict in our region must be paralleled by efforts to create sustainable development, giving those who are now dispossessed a stake in a peaceful future. Today, our people, especially our young people, desperately need access to the freedom, prosperity, and advances of the 21st century. To achieve that, there is widespread agreement in the Arab world on the need for reform: responsive, transparent governance; educational systems dedicated to excellence; tangible strides in human development; and a vigorous private sector that can help create innovation and economic growth.

Jordan has already made the commitment. Our country has made structural changes to build democratic political life and entrench human rights and access to opportunity at every level of society. In the economy, we have encouraged innovation and partnership with the private sector. French investment has played an important and welcome role. Jordan was honoured to be the first Mashriq country to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union, and we are working closely with France and other European countries through the Barcelona Process.

My country's vision is of an open, modern civil society rooted in true Arab-Islamic values: peace; the equal dignity of all people; the rule of law; and the pursuit of excellence. We strongly believe in tolerance and respect for others. Last November, Jordan issued the Amman Message to all Muslims and others around the world, reaffirming the true Islam of peace, moderation and progress.

We believe that Jordan's home-grown model is relevant to the entire region, in creating development, combating extremism, and providing new hope. The “Vision 2010 for the Arab World” initiative, which will be launched at the Dead Sea World Economic Forum meeting in Jordan next May, is bringing private and civil society leaders from across the Arab world, to produce a practical regional action plan. We are grateful to France, which has taken a strong stand respecting our region's self-generated process and encouraging its support. President Chirac has also taken a prominent leadership role in addressing the issue of inadequate international development funding with members of the G-8. Such efforts can provide an international framework for increasing development funding to countries that show a strong will to move forward, motivating positive change.

I am proud to take part in the ongoing dialogue between France and Jordan. Since the days of His Majesty the late King Hussein, we have built a strong partnership that continues to this day and that is based on shared interests, grounded in the bedrock of shared ideals. Today, greater freedom and security are tantalisingly close for more and more of humanity. I believe that working together, we can move from the promise to the deed.