The following interview of Jordan’s King Abdullah II on JTV was published in the Jordan Times 9-2-07. The King reiterates that Jordan is for all Jordanians regardless of political persuasion or tribal affiliation and at the very end clarifies the idea of federation and confederation:
Following is the transcript of His Majesty King Abdullah’s interview with JTV on Friday:
JTV: Your Majesty, in your last interview with JTV, you spoke about holding municipal and legislative elections during this year regardless of the difficult regional situation. Municipal elections were held and now we have parliamentary elections. What does Your Majesty hope for these elections and what do you say to your people in this regard?
King: These good, giving people deserve from us a lot of hard work for their sake, and for a better future for the coming generations. We should continue our efforts to enhance democracy in the country and provide an atmosphere of freedom and openness that enables our citizens to participate in decision-making.
We are committed to holding, this year, fair parliamentary elections, in which all participate, because Jordan is for all citizens, regardless of their political or tribal affiliations.
We hope that elections will return a strong Parliament that will meet the expectations and challenges facing our country.
Neither the security situation nor the most recent dangerous developments in the region will stop our modernisation and development. I have confidence that people are capable of surmounting all of these challenges and of holding parliamentary elections. We are counting on people’s awareness and ability to choose whoever is the best, the most efficient and the most capable of representing them and serving the homeland’s interests.
JTV: Your Majesty, regarding difficult economic conditions, how do you foresee future economic developments in the country?
King: I am personally aware of the citizens’ daily concerns about the difficult economic conditions. These conditions are the result of several domestic and regional factors. We cannot control the regional factors, but preparation and readiness to meet these conditions are better than wasting time in complaining and regretting that such conditions exist.
In order to face up to these conditions, an integrated social safety net must be established that guarantees for Jordanian citizens basic health and comprehensive social services, housing and a decent life for every citizen.
JTV: Your Majesty, what about the long-term or strategic plans which have been made to improve the people’s livelihood?
King: Definitely there are. The aforementioned thoughts are part of the efforts exerted to improve the citizens’ livelihood and economic situation. There are plans and efforts to deal with several economic problems; primary among them is the public debt.
The largest part of our international effort aims to reduce this debt and attract more investment. My recent visit to Kazakhstan and other states could be categorised in this direction. The debt issue was also discussed recently with some major donor states and organisations, primary among them the countries of the G-8. We are encouraging them to buy these debts or exchange them for developmental investments that would contribute to job creation and poverty alleviation.
I discussed this issue with the German chancellor, the French president, the American president and the Canadian prime minister. Soon we will have continuous communications with Japanese officials, including the Japanese prime minister. We hope that all these efforts will lead to a positive outcome and reduce the debt burden.
JTV: Your Majesty, despite achievements and high growth rates, some believe that citizens are shouldering additional burdens. When will people start feeling economic benefits?
King: Any process meant to improve the existing economic situation needs time and understanding by our people of thenature of this process. It needs sincere hard work from the ministers and responsible officials in follow-up and implementation of the economic initiatives that have been launched, and in launching other new initiatives.
Objectively speaking, Jordan has already realised several achievements in the spheres of economic development, growth rates and enhancing market capacity to absorb the labour force. This has happened in spite of regional conditions surrounding us and the increasing price of oil.
On the other hand, future economic plans and projects, a great number of which are still in the implementation phase, aim in the first place, to fairly redistribute development returns to all the Kingdom’s regions. In this context, we established special economic and development zones in different areas, such as Mafraq and Irbid, and, God willing, we will establish such zones in Maan and Azraq. Through these zones we seek to create projects that would employ the workforce in these areas. Industrial cities and zones have also been established in most of the Kingdom’s governorates.
Talking about this matter reminds us of the support to Jordan by the Arab states. We convey our sincere thanks to the leaders of these states, primary among them the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Ben Abdul Aziz and the government of Saudi Arabia for their support for Jordan. We appreciate the recent Saudi initiative to contribute to the construction of a new housing city in Zarqa that aims at improving the economic and living conditions of a wide sector of our people.
JTV: Your Majesty, on the peace process, sometimes there is optimism that it is moving forward… and at other moments, developments occur that take the whole process back to square one. How does Your Majesty see the future?
King: In spite of the stumbling of the peace process, and in spite of all the events and recent developments that are taking place in Palestine and Iraq, we are still optimistic regarding the future. We are working to achieve a just and comprehensive peace that provides security and stability to the region.
The American president’s invitation for holding an international peace conference this autumn was the result of Jordan’s numerous efforts with Arab states and other friendly states, especially following the Arab summit held in Riyadh, to put the peace process back on the right track.
We consider this conference, in which Jordan will participate, a positive step towards realising the peace to which we aspire, and we hope that the conference will be a significant opportunity to resolve the core conflict in the region between Israelis and Palestinians, in accordance with international resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.
JTV: Your Majesty, now the Palestinian discord presents another threatening dimension to the peace process. How do you view this situation?
King: Definitely… and our Palestinian brothers should benefit from this opportunity to unify their efforts and stances. The separation of Gaza from the West Bank is unacceptable at both the Palestinian and Arab levels.
When we talk about a Palestinian state, we mean a state that is established on Palestinian lands in Gaza and the West Bank. So we call upon all our Palestinian brothers to let sound judgment and reason prevail, and to unify their ranks to surmount their suffering and realise their legitimate national goals and ambitions.
JTV: Your Majesty, the extremists from both sides try to undermine the progress achieved in the peace process. What can we do to stop these people? And what is specifically required from Israel?
King: We in Jordan are aware of all these attempts that seek to preserve the state of instability in the region. It is regrettable that there are states and other actors that prefer to maintain the status quo. Since the reign of my great grandfather, there have been several initiatives to find a solution to the conflict in Palestine; had the political forces in the Arab-Islamic world and the international community accepted these initiatives, things would not be as they are today.
Regrettably, some people opposed these initiatives – including the 1947 Palestine partition plan which guaranteed the establishment of a Palestinian state.
It is time to translate the efforts that have been exerted into real actions on the ground. It is time for Israel to recognise the rights of the Palestinian people and to realise that if it wants to be recognised by Arab and Islamic states and to have a future in this region, it should act and cooperate for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on Palestinian land.
JTV: Your Majesty, while there are parties that seek to obstruct the peace process, others are targeting Jordan by bringing up the issues of federation and confederation. What do these people want from Jordan?
King: Confederation with whom? And on what basis? Is it a confederation with the Palestinian people? Or with the PLO? Or with any other Palestinian organisation? I want answers to these questions. I would like also to inquire about the reason for asking this question always at certain moments, especially when the international community has intensified its call on Israel to abide by resolutions of international legitimacy and the establishment of the Palestinian state.
What we all know is that confederation is a relation between two states that enjoy complete independence, sovereignty over territory with clearly defined geographic borders. Our stance on this matter is clear, and we have declared that stance on several occasions, but it appears that some media personalities and some politicians – and it is regrettable to say that a number of them are in Jordan – do not want to listen and instead wish to continue with this suspicious role, fishing in stagnant waters. So any talk about federation or confederation before the establishment of an independent Palestinian state is suspect, unreasonable and intended to stir discord. It is completely unacceptable.