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Friday, 24 August, 2001, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
Transcript: Interview with King Abdullah
King Abdullah
King Abdullah: Fighting in Israel hurts Middle Eastern economies
The BBC's Bridget Kendall interviews King Abdullah of Jordan in Amman

Brigit Kendall: Your Majesty, it is soon going to be a year since the clashes started between the Israelis and the Palestinians - how damaging, how concerning, has that impact been on Jordan?

King Abdullah: Well, it has been damaging on all of us in the region and of great concern not only to the countries of the region but to the international community.

We will never see a true stable, prosperous Middle East until the Palestinian-Israeli situation is solved and therefore it's of paramount importance to all of us to be there for both sides - to try and get them past the crisis that they are in at the moment and achieve an atmosphere where we can get them to sit around the peace table again.

This is, I think, the secret of Jordan - being able to have the confidence of both sides

BK: There is an initiative by the German Foreign Minister at the moment to try and get them talking.

But overall the situation is pretty grim - every day we get new reports of violence, sometimes deaths. What do you think is the key to ending this violence?

Talks needed

KA: Well, there have been many initiatives pretty much all saying the same thing; trying to get both sides to disengage long enough to be able to get them to sit around the peace table.

I believe that the efforts exerted by the European Union and, to an extent, by the United States - I believe that sooner or later we will be able to get both sides together.

Unfortunately as you have said, it has been almost a year of both sides having a go at each other to such extent that I think they have lost sight of the bigger picture.

But we are trying in Jordan and other countries in the region and the Europeans and the international community, to try and get them out of this cycle of violence.

Israeli soldier
King Abdullah wants the fighting to end
Obviously the main problem is that you find on the ground, both sides in confrontation - so how do we split them apart?

And this is why, I think, there is a call for monitors.

I think maybe this would be a positive step where you can allow some breathing space - keep both sides away from each other long enough to be able to get an atmosphere where they can sit around the table.

BK: What sort of monitors? International monitors? American monitors?

Third party

KA: Well, obviously there are different points of view out there but I think that both sides understand that we do need a third party at this stage because we have let both sides try to resolve their problems for almost a year and it hasn't got them anywhere.

By getting some monitors in - I think this is the only solution.

Both sides have their own worries and concerns about who the monitors are to be but I believe that the violence is continuing to escalate.

I don't see a light at the end of the tunnel unless we shake the tree, so to speak, and I think monitors are the only way of doing it.

And I believe between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the Americans and the Europeans - we are trying to find a formula that will make both sides happy.

BK: What about Jordan's role here though?

We can step in, hear both sides of the story and try and help wherever we can

Because your father, His Majesty the late King Hussein, is well remembered for his role in fostering the peace process and you too have been involved.

Do you see this as some way that you can follow your father's legacy and do something specific?

Peace maker

KA: Jordan enjoys relations with everybody and this is, I think, the secret of Jordan - being able to have the confidence of both sides.

And so from the start of the difficulties - even before the intifada with the peace process - Jordan was playing an active role of trying to bridge the difficulties or the differences between both sides.

BK: You have a peace treaty with Israel - it is controversial to some people here. Do you think that that gives you any leverage?

King Abdullah and his father King Hussein
Father and son: King Hussein was a peace broker
KA: We have a peace treaty with Israel but this is, I think, the advantage that Jordan does have and Egypt to an extent, that there are Arab countries that can talk to Israel.

Even President Arafat is very keen on the relationship that Egypt and Jordan have with Israel simply because we can talk to the other side.

And I think that is the plus that we can step in, hear both sides of the story and try and help wherever we can.

BK: Even when you are talking to Prime Minister Sharon?

KA: It is very difficult for sides to pick who the other leader should be on the other side of the fence. Prime Minister Sharon is the Prime Minister of Israel and therefore when we deal with the Israelis this is the person that you have to deal with.

BK: What about the United States role?

Are you frustrated that the current US administration seems to be considering that it shouldn't take an active role?

They are saying that it is up to the partners in the regions to sort things out for themselves.

America's role

KA: You have to understand the American position.

I think that the Americans feel that both sides took advantage or took them for granted during the Clinton administration, both sides were sort of playing each other off in front of the Americans.

You have to understand their point of view - until the Americans really feel that both sides are willing to take this seriously to an extent - I guess this is the best way of saying it - that it is very difficult for them to get involved.

President George W Bush
President Bush is reluctant to get involved
Because if they get involved and both sides really don't feel that they can't achieve anything then we are just going to waste the American card.

The President, in particular, I think holds the presidential card as something of vital importance - that when the President steps in it is because we can get something done.

BK: Now all this has come at a particularly bad time for Jordan, just as you were trying to push through a most ambitious privatisation programme and project to introduce computers to Jordan.

How damaging has this political context - this violence next door - been for your vision of what you want to do here?

Economic suffering

KA: As we said earlier it has been very damaging to all of us in the region.

Having said that though, what has been more surprising as much as it set us back and the economic reform programmes in Jordan - when you compare what is happening in Jordan to everybody else in the region - including Israel - we are way better off.

We had a very bad hit at tourism at the beginning of the intifada that really affected the growth of Jordan - we are now 5% more than last year.

And if you want to make a successful venture of economic reform, you really have to keep at it.

The pace that I have set in Jordan is one that we are going to continue to have to keep up for several more years until we do become a Hong Kong or Singapore.

And I think that is within our reach because unlike many countries in the region we have a highly talented workforce.

We do not accept an exodus of Palestinians out of the West Bank into Jordan

BK: But, if the intifada worsens, you will no doubt have more Palestinians seeking refuge here in Jordan - coming across the River Jordan from the West Bank, from Israel and Gaza - that will increase the economic burden.

It will increase the political strains on the country - isn't all this rather hostage to what is happening next door?

Exodus rejected

KA: Again I think that the Jordanian position has been made very, very clear that we do not accept an exodus of Palestinians out of the West Bank into Jordan.

Firstly, it is detrimental to the Palestinian cause.

If there are no Palestinians in the West Bank, how can they secure a future homeland for themselves?

And again the limitations of Jordan - it is not just the economy - it comes simply down to the amount of water that Jordan can provide to its citizens and so any increase of numbers or exodus from the West Bank into Jordan is a red line for our country.

Obviously we have the responsibility to try and help those in the region but Jordan is moving forward no matter what is happening.

Obviously regional problems sometimes delay the pace but that should not deter us from the goals that we are out to achieve and so we will continue life as - or business as usual but at the same time bear responsibilities of what we need to be able to do on a regional level.

The BBC's Bridget Kendall
talks to King Abdullah of Jordan

Key stories




See also:

09 Jun 99 | Middle East
30 Jul 01 | Middle East
27 Jul 01 | Country profiles
24 Aug 01 | Middle East
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