The following speech by HRH Crown Prince Hassan of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was delivered by Jawad Anani, Minister of State for Prime Ministry Affairs, in Washington, D.C., on September 26, 1994, at a meeting sponsored by the Middle East Policy Council.
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, may I say at the outset what a pleasure it is for me to be here with you today. The Middle East Policy Council has always sought to publicize the facts about the Middle East and bring a sense of objective analysis to the American debate on regional policy. This is precisely what we in Jordan are working for, and we value your commitment to open and honest debate. I would like to contribute to that debate by sharing with you Jordan's perspective on the peace process and the future prospects for the region. I greatly look forward to hearing your views during the time set aside for questions.
The Middle East peace process is now almost three years old. Many among you will recall our first tentative steps along the path to peace, taken at Madrid in October 1991. At that time, peace was a barely imaginable goal, a goal lying far in the distance, eluding our best efforts. There was no sense of trust or partnership between the parties, for the burden of history weighed heavy on all.
There was no precedent for peacemaking on that scale, no effective channel of communication, no established mechanism for negotiation. Indeed, one of the parties, the PLO, was excluded from the process altogether. How far we have come since then. In only three years a transformation has been wrought in regional politics. The peace process has forever altered the political landscape of the Middle East. So thoroughgoing has this transformation been that we are now within view of our ultimate goal. We stand poised on the verge of that accomplishment, long sought but always thought unattainable: a comprehensive, just and lasting peace. And now we find ourselves, for the first time, contemplating together the shape of our common future.
These developments, astonishing as they would have seemed only three years ago, have taken place against a background of considered, far-sighted and careful negotiation. I would like now to retrace some of this background with you, to place these breakthroughs in context.
Jordan has been committed to a negotiated settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict longer than any other regional party. Jordan played an active role in formulating United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 and has consistently supported 242 and 338 as the basis for peace in the Middle East. Our commitment to the cause of peace has never been in question. Indeed, Jordan played a key role in enabling the Madrid process to be launched at all. Far back in October 1991, when the Israeli government of the day refused to negotiate with the Palestinian delegation, it was Jordan that stepped into the breech, providing an umbrella for Palestinian negotiators. Since then, the peace process has been significant on all tracks.
On the Palestinian-Israeli track, the mutual recognition of Israel and the PLO and the implementation of the Palestinian Autonomy Accord have been the central achievements. The PLO, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, is negotiating directly with Israel. They are installed in Gaza and Jericho and are conducting their affairs as they see fit. The destiny of the Palestinian people is at last in their own hands. For all the Arab parties, this is cause for great optimism. The Palestine question has always been at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and these strides towards its resolution represent the start of a new era in the region.
On the Syrian-Israeli track, recent statements from both parties indicate an increasing acceptance of the necessity of peacemaking and the pragmatic considerations involved. It is our hope that they will find the common ground necessary to bridge the psychological barriers that exist on both sides.
I would like to note here that on the issue of comprehensiveness Jordan has always sought coordination between the concerned parties. However, our commitment to a comprehensive peace does not mean we must sign a peace treaty at exactly the same time as another state, but that a prior breakthrough is desired. Jordan and Israel agreed last year in our common agenda for negotiations that a peace treaty would be comprehensive, and this position has been recently reiterated by Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
That common agenda has been the foundation of the talks on the Jordan-Israeli track. It was under the common agenda that Jordan and Israel formed a joint commission to deal with the issues of border, security, water and environment. And it was under the common agenda that we agreed for the first time to undertake joint projects, including the promotion of tourism, the development of the Jordan Rift Valley, and the construction of the Red Sea coastal road.
The fact that we have approached our negotiations in this open and constructive manner does not mean that we have resolved all of our differences. Let me say here that Jordan is prepared to sign a peace treaty with Israel once the outstanding issues are negotiated and settled to the satisfaction of all. There would be no point in conducting peace talks otherwise, but a peace treaty has to have content, and we are at present building that content. We do not want to ignore difficult problems now and hope they will resolve themselves at a later date, for we know that a worthwhile treaty must anticipate problems and provide appropriate mechanisms for their resolution.
The outstanding areas of border, water and security must, therefore, be dealt with before any treaty can be signed. We have agreed on some general principles, mechanisms and modalities in these areas, but in terms of substantive, detailed and sustainable agreements, there is still work to do. In addition, some areas that are not solely the concern of Jordan and Israel must be addressed in advance of any comprehensive and viable regional peace. Foremost among these are the issues of refugees and Jerusalem.
However, the progress made by our negotiators had been sufficiently encouraging that the leaders of our two countries elected to provide a public move to the peace process. And His Majesty King Hussein and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin both held a historic meeting in Washington on July 25. The Washington declaration, which they signed on the White House lawn with President Clinton, is a key document in the history of our countries, marking a significant turning point in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The declaration officially ends the state of war between Jordan and Israel while explicitly recognizing the rights and obligations of each party. It lays out a number of powerful confidence-building measures designed to ease the transition from the state of war to a state of peace, helping Arab and Israeli to live side by side without fear or prejudice. Within days of the declaration, these measures began coming into effect. On his return home, His Majesty King Hussein became the first Jordanian to fly over Israeli territory. Direct telephone links were opened between Jordan and Israel for the first time. And perhaps most tellingly, a new border crossing point was opened between our countries by the Gulf of Aqaba, and another is planned for the north.
These measures are all of practical utility, of course, but they also symbolize the new spirit of communication and openness between our countries. The Washington declaration called for economic negotiations to prepare for future bilateral cooperation. At this point I would like to turn from the political aspects of peacemaking to consider its all-important economic dimension. It should, however, be borne in mind that one cannot separate the two spheres in reality, for the problems are interlinked just as the solutions are interconnected.
We in Jordan believe that it is vital to take on the broader economic and human implications of peace and to formulate strategies for effective response. The experience of Eastern Europe has demonstrated the importance of these dimensions. The peoples of the Middle East have likewise earned the right to enjoy the peace dividend. If peace is to take root on the ground, stability and growth must be assured-and seen to be assured. I have no doubt that this is within our capabilities, given the goodwill of the international community and the serious intentions of the parties involved.
There are, however, serious obstacles to overcome. The Arab-Israeli conflict has shattered the economies of the Middle East. Massive and constant expenditure on arms has wasted the region's resources, preventing investment in more productive areas. This in tum has forced an addiction to aid, on the one hand, and oil revenues on the other.
The conflict has created disparities, unserviceable debt burdens and over-extended public sectors. It has stunted economic growth, prevented cooperation and undermined international confidence. Given a climate of peace and a viable economic framework, the economies of the region will eventually recover, but it will take time, investment and careful planning. The national investment and development projects that serve the region and its people will be absolutely essential. It is equally important that such projects be founded upon sound concepts and that they receive the support of the international financial institutions, governments and multinational corporations alike.
Direct private investment will play a key role, as will joint ventures and appropriate technology transfer. Those who seek to help the Middle East toward a peaceful and prosperous future would do well to consider how such channels can best be developed. However, peace requires an enduring structure to tackle the overarching problems of the economies of the region. Such a structure must allow for human cooperation, resource cooperation and security.
As a long-term goal, we want to liberalize and dismantle all barriers in the region, whether in terms of trade, investment, labor, capital or services. A Middle East Free Trade Agreement (MEFTA) along the lines of NAFTA or EFTA is the objective. It is clear that different areas of the Middle East are endowed with different resources, labor, capital, technology and so forth. A free-trade regime would be in the interests of all the people of the region and would allow the Middle East to play a more dynamic and constructive role within the world economy. However, there is still some way to go before conditions are sufficiently stable, equitable and sustainable to realize the vision. International support will be absolutely vital in bringing about such conditions. Peacemaking inevitably creates uncertainty. The short-run fiscal aspect of peace is likely to be negative for Jordan.
The World Bank, for instance, estimates our GDP will be reduced by 4 percent annually. Effective monitoring of the ongoing economic situation, coupled with rapid and appropriate responses, will be essential in the future if stability is to be assured and peacemaking is to proceed smoothly. In the longer term, the disparities created by the conflict must be addressed, and for Jordan, as for many of the regional parties, that remains a critical issue.
But economic strategies alone are not sufficient. They must be underpinned by arrangements that can guarantee the security of all and encourage cooperation between the parties. The bilateral tracks of the peace process involve only Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinians and Israel. The rest of the Middle East is represented only in multinational or multilateral talks. It is our hope that these multilateral talks will foreshadow the development of such arrangements. For if the Middle East is to enjoy a viable future, it must above all else find a neutral idiom and forum in which to discuss common challenges and the framework for collective action.
To this end, Jordan has long called for a Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Middle East (CSCME), loosely based on the Conference on Security Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). A forum of this sort, neutral and low-key, might be the best place to address contentious issues. Such issues-I am thinking here of borders, resource allocation, security arrangements could easily disrupt the peace for which we all have worked so hard. A CSCME would provide a focus for nonmilitary solutions, for surely it is plain to all that military solutions are no solutions at all. The recognition of common goals and aspirations, the building of a structure of interconnections and mutual aid-these are the only lasting solutions. A CSCME would assist in the evolution of the common regional vision. This vision would encompass a commitment to certain fundamentals. Jordan's advocacy of the CSCME rests on the conviction that the future of the Middle East depends on the development of such a vision, backed up by appropriate instruments and implemented across the region. I believe that the Middle East has much to offer the world, but only if it is set now on a viable footing. For too long the region has been at odds with itself, squandering its potential and producing only instability. The atmosphere of uncertainty has prevented the evolution of representative institutions. It has encouraged the abuse of human rights and stifled the region's creative drive. With the resolution of the Arab Israeli conflict a real possibility, we must consider how to devise a process of positive change.
To be sure, there are difficult questions. We can take the easy way, avoid them, and so give our assent to the future of chaos and darkness. Alternatively, we can set about answering them and answering them together.
I would like to leave you with the assurance that Jordan remains committed to peace, democratization, free trade and human rights in the Middle East. We know that our answers are unusual and untested in the region, but the ways of the past have failed. It is time for a new way.
Q: Could you expand on the concept of MEFTA? What additional steps are necessary before it can really be taken up? Second, is it fairly narrow, with Israel, Palestine and Jordan, or would it extend further to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, etc.? Third, is there any thinking that it should go beyond trade and be a free-labor exchange area as well?
Dr. Anani: I believe that the vision of Jordan is that we have to develop some sort of an idea about what is it that we want to do, because some people seem to think that there is an automatic relationship between bringing peace and creating regional cooperation. We think that the process needs to be worked on; it must be planned, and it must be done deliberately by all parties concerned.
It is not going to happen overnight, because people need to take certain measures before they can qualify for membership in such a club. Unless people are ready for it, you can't take a decision. We have tried in the Arab world many different forms of economic integration. According to the Arab Thought Forum, we have tried at least 1,000 times since World War II, and most of those experiences have not produced anything.
I don't think that the Israeli element is going to change all of that and suddenly create all factors of success. We have to admit that the fact that Israel is superior in terms of technology and economic development does not really make a regional concept more viable. On the contrary, this even may pose further problems that could alienate nations in the area from each other. What we need is to create some sort of a constructive model that we all can work together with and somehow develop trade on a solid base. Let's start with a free-trade zone. If we succeed beyond our expectations, there is no limit to what we can do in the future. We can move into some sort of unity or integration or common market or whatever form you like.
The second issue that we have to deal with, which you alluded to, is what regional configuration are we talking about, because it seems that Jordan, Israel and Palestine are now viewed as the nucleus of any future cooperation. It may be true because of demographic factors and because of geography that the three of them together may somehow find a way to deal with each other. And the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have had the experience of dealing with both Jordan and Israel. So somehow the people got used to dealing with each other-Jordan with the Palestinians, the Palestinians with the Israelis-and Jordan was the only country which kept its bridges open with the West Bank and Gaza. So you have some sort of infrastructure that can be developed and worked on.
But in the future how this geographic configuration develops has to depend on objective factors on the ground. We have to worry about people, we have to worry about future prosperity, and yet we also have to adopt a sort of scientific approach gradually including countries that are willing and whose people are also willing, because if you take decisions at the top that do not go down to the grass roots, they will fail. This is supported by our experience in the Middle East.
On the investment issue-a very important question-I believe that our economic regimes right now are not ready for economic integration. We should learn from the European experience. If I say I'm going to open trade between Jordan and Israel tomorrow, that does not mean goods are going to flow, because so many barriers exist, so many restrictive administrative measures, so many excuses that we make. Some people think that because you deal with the issue politically you are going to achieve something on the ground. We in Jordan beg to differ. We think that all countries need to demonstrate that they are willing to go into that partnership by making the proper sacrifices and taking the proper steps toward that end. This is the only way we think it's going to work.
Q: There is another area of conflict in the Middle East which has been completely ignored by the Arab people, unfortunately, and that is the Kurdish conflict, which has been ongoing for a long time. Now that we have a Kurdish parliament and they have unilaterally declared a federation with Iraq, I would like to know Jordan's stand on this federation.
Dr. Anani: First of all, I would like to record here my greatest respect for the Kurds. Half of the population of the town I come from was originally Kurdistani, so we all have, I think, Kurdish blood in us.
However, you are asking me a political question. The Kurdish people have been working very hard to achieve their own self-determination and some sort of recognition in terms of an entity that would acknowledge them as a people with rights and an ethnic identity that separates them from others. I am not an expert on Kurdish affairs. But I know that one can be victimized by the political circumstances that may prevail in a given area, or one might want to make use of circumstances. One might ask about Turkey's problems or Iraq's. Had Iraq not been in the situation where it is, would they allow what is happening in north Iraq to continue?
Q: ls the government of Jordan prepared to support Palestinian statehood and go beyond mere self-rule and autonomy such as now exist?
Dr. Anani: There are certain paradoxes that we should look at when we look at the ongoing peace process. The agreement signed between the Palestinians and the Israelis, the Declaration of Principles, specifically talked about postponing the issue of refugees until final status. But let's look at Gaza.
What is actually happening in Gaza is resettlement of refugees because 80 percent of the Gaza population are refugees, not Gazans. Are we beginning to see the seeds of a final resolution developing in this transitional process? Why should we put any taboos in a world where we have been actually shattering myths that have persisted for at least 40 years. One of these myths is that a Palestinian state is a threat to this or a threat to that. If the Palestinian state is going to solve the hardcore problem which is the Palestinian component of it, then it should be done. But if the Palestinian state becomes a threat to its neighbors and not a haven for Palestinians who are seeking recognition and self-determination, then all of us will have to raise questions about that.
Q: Since the 1974 Rabat conference, you have considered the PLO to be the sole spokesman of the Palestinian people. On what basis do you now make claims to Jerusalem?
Dr. Anani: Jordan doesn't have claims on Jerusalem. [The King of] Jordan is saying, I am the custodian of the holy places until a satisfactory resolution is brought about. I don't know how much you know about the agreements which were signed between the PLO and Israel. The PLO has tried to be a very honorable partner in the peace process by respecting its conditions. Is there anything in those agreements that you have seen which says anything about transferring authority from Israel to the Palestinians over the holy places? Suppose tomorrow Jordan says, "Okay, the PLO can exercise that right over Jerusalem?" And what if Israel does not allow them to do so? It's not a question of who does what. We are talking about a process. Everything must be done at the right time and must be handed over to the right people who can exercise authority. The PLO is not the only player on the field. There is Israel, which is the stronger. The only authority the Palestinians can exercise in the occupied territories is the one which is given to them by the Israelis right now. When Jordan relinquishes responsibility, to whom do we relinquish it? To somebody who cannot exercise it? Let us be clear, because there is so much politicization of this particular issue. Once it is put in the right perspective, I don't think we have any problems with the PLO or with anyone else.
Q: First, could you speak to the tension generated by the conflicting views of who should first visit the holy shrines of Jerusalem and under what conditions. Second, the Israeli authorities continue to expand the borders of what they call Jerusalem and to insist that it be unified and Israeli-administered forever. Does Jordan see an effective way to keep these issues open so that they may be properly resolved by negotiation, not by Israeli fiat.
Dr. Anani: First of all, Jerusalem is an occupied territory; there is no doubt about that. It's part of the occupied territory which the Israelis must give back according to Resolution 242, which requires the exchange of territory for peace.
But why would the Vatican be so interested in Jerusalem, in the Christian holy shrines in Jerusalem? Doesn't that tell you that there is a separation between the religious and territorial aspects of the problem? And why was it so important for the Israelis that the first decision they took after June 1%7 was to annex Jerusalem? It's because of the religious and historical value of the city itself.
The Palestinians are now fully responsible to regain the territories in the final status negotiations. What if they fail to reach a satisfactory solution on Jerusalem, will they alone be blamed? Or will that responsibility be shared by everybody in the Arab and Islamic worlds?
Nobody can ignore the religious rights of anybody else in that city. And there is not going to be peace if no civilized formula can be found to deal with that. We think that the Palestinians are entitled also to say that Jerusalem is their capital. But the holy places are going to be a major issue. And I'm sure that everybody deep down realizes that, unless you resolve that, there's not going to be a real peace in the area.
Q: Who asked the government of Jordan to participate in the multinational force in Haiti? What is the Jordanian national interest in doing so? And is this in any way related to the peace process?
Dr. Anani: First of all, Jordan has its own vested interest, and I'm not going to deny that. We have been participating in peacemaking forces around the world. We sent troops to Serbia. We have troops in Cambodia and in other places. And we like to think our boys have been doing a very good job. So when the issue of Haiti came up, we said, we are going to participate in the security aspect, monitoring and human services only. And we did that when President Clinton asked us to. That request was also supported by the United Nations.
Q: The immediate and apparent result of the Washington declaration was to be the forgiving of the American loans to Jordan. Where does that stand? Second, how interrelated and interdependent are the different components of the peace process, particularly the component of Syria and Lebanon.
Dr. Anani: In Washington on July 25, we saw the American Congress take very constructive and speedy steps toward debt forgiveness for Jordan. It was done in remarkable time, for which we are very grateful. After His Majesty King Hussein returned to Jordan, President Clinton sent letters to the other 13 leaders of the Paris Club. These are the countries Jordan owes money to, and therefore he wrote letters to all of them asking them to take similar steps. Some have responded in a small way, some in a bigger way. The cost of peace to Jordan is very high, and unless we find help, the very critical and central role of Jordan to the peace process cannot be fulfilled. I think that President Clinton and the American administration have been fully aware of this, and that's why they took the move they did. The whole peace process has been divided into two main courses, not four. There is the Syrian Lebanese course vis-a-vis Israel, and there is the Jordanian, and to some degree Palestinian, course vis-a-vis Israel. This has been dictated for different reasons. While the Palestinians and the Jordanians are looking for ways to redefine their relationship, in Lebanon and Syria everybody's looking for ways to break the existing relationship.
Everybody thinks that in terms of facts on the ground, they are very much interrelated. Therefore the precedent that we can set on the Jordanian track certainly will be emulated on the Syrian track. And the Israelis know that. That's why sometimes they are hesitant about making sufficient progress on the Jordanian track because they keep in mind the fact that the Syrians might want to benefit from this. But we think that eventually, if you want to arrive at a comprehensive peace, you cannot break all the obvious, implicit and explicit links among the different tracks. Such links do exist, and we are much better off if we acknowledge them and work on that basis.
Q: There have been press reports that contacts have been taking place between Israel and Iraq, and that Jordan might play an intermediary role between the two parties. Do you see a role in the peace process for Iraq under its current regime?
Dr. Anani: The answer to your first question is no, there are no such contacts. H you remember when the meeting took place between His Majesty and Prime Minister Rabin in Aqaba, one of the Israeli journalists asked His Majesty about this, and Mr. Rabin immediately intercepted the question and answered, "No, and I have not asked for that." I don't think anything has changed since that time.
Now, going back to the issue of Iraq, it's important to remember that every time this issue is raised, you're bound to step on somebody's toes. But Iraq is a country with extra oil, extra water, extra territory. Israel, Palestine and Jordan, don't have all these resources. Do you know how much money we're going to spend just to have water, or how much money we're going to spend just to arrive at some degree of self-sufficiency in field crops, how much money we need to have our energy requirements for the future? I think Iraq can play a very important role.
I don't know why when everybody thinks of Iraq they immediately think of one man. Maybe because we have been exposed to the same news for the last three or four years. How can you expect an Iraqi parent who spends the whole day just looking for food for his children to accomplish a coup d’état? Where has this ever happened?
Q: This is an economic question, but perhaps it also relates to Iraq. I wonder if you can elaborate on the World Bank report predicting a fall in the Jordanian GDP and perhaps say a few more words about the kinds of stresses and strains you see on the Jordanian economy. I would have thought that it's more important for Jordan's economic prosperity to redevelop important economic relations with Iraq than it is, say, with the West.
And what is your government counseling our government with respect to the American policy of dual containment? How do you see Iraq being reintegrated into the region in the foreseeable future?
Dr. Anani: We believe that peace will give us much better prospects for economic improvement. Strangely enough, if you draw a graph of Jordan's growth over time, you will find that during times of peace it has grown much faster than during times of war. This has been typical of the Jordanian economy all the way through.
But sometimes you begin to accumulate wealth for which you do not generate an income. Everything that you do might prove to be, over time, a hidden asset. But the proper time for you to use it comes at a later stage. We are not going to immediately benefit from what is happening, because we need to invest first of all. If you say we are going to start with open trade with the area and we have to liberalize our trade, that means decreased income for government revenue at the beginning, before trade picks up to a level where the decrease in the rates of tariff is going to be balanced by the increase in the volume of trade.
The second thing is that we are going to invest heavily in infrastructure projects that are required by the peace process. Railroads, roads, many other projects are not going to be immediately generating income. So our initial calculation is that, while we want the peace process, we're looking for things that would generate cash, like tourism. But even if you want to, you can only encourage it up to a certain level, until you have invested in roads and infrastructure and hotels and restaurants and so on. Therefore, we think that in the initial period, we are going to witness some sort of a decline in GDP as an investment in the peace process itself.
As to your question about Iraq, you cannot really assess Jordan's benefits from Iraq simply because there was an eight-year war between Iran and Iraq during which Iran was considered to be the major nemesis and Jordan was patted on the shoulder and encouraged by everybody to open its borders to Iraq. For eight years a small country of less than 4 million people had to cater to the needs of a rich country of 18 million that was at war. Of course that should have necessitated a restructuring in our industry, trade, services and so on. As you know, Iraq was not able to pay, and we had to continue pumping goods and services into Iraq with the hope that the Iran Iraq War was going to end and we would be paid. A year later another war takes place, and Jordan is supposed to turn around 180 degrees. "You cannot deal with that country, you cannot do this, you cannot do that," everybody was saying. Jordan was practically bleeding, but nobody was really paying attention.
When we assess our future relations with Iraq, we want to build them on normalcy, not on the skewed or hyperbolic trends which characterized the last decade.
We also had to learn to adjust our relations with the Gulf states. At one time, 80 percent of our foreign-exchange reserves came from Gulf states. Now we have adjusted to the fact that you cannot deal with Gulf states on the basis that oil is there forever. Oil is not there forever, and we don't want to reestablish our relations on a money-for-labor formula. It has not worked, unfortunately; and it has caused what you might call the "Dutch disease" [reliance on remittances] inside the Jordanian economy, from which we're still suffering. We need to restructure to rebuild ourselves and bring ourselves into a new set of relations based on mutual respect and economic interest.