This interview was conducted in Amman during the 1995 Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Economic Conference, held from October 29-31. The 1995 MENA Conference, which was held in Amman, marked one of the high points of the peace process, as Arabs and Israelis gathered to build a more prosperous future for the region. The conference took place one week before the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
In this brief interview, King Hussein stresses the importance of building a peace between peoples--as opposed to peace between governments--and points to the significance of the MENA Conference in building trust and cooperation in this respect. Referring to Iraq, His Majesty reiterates his desire for the different components that make up that country to undertake a dialogue in order to overcome their differences and work for a better future.
Interviewer: Hillary Bowker
October 30, 1995
Hillary Bowker: Your Majesty thank you very for joining us today.
King Hussein: Thank you so much Hillary. It is a pleasure.
Hillary Bowker: If we can begin, perhaps, by looking at Jordans changing role within the region and perhaps Jordans changing role with Iraq, if you can give us your thoughts on where you believe Iraqs future lies or should lie?
King Hussein: With regard to Iraq, I believe it is a very important country in this region. It is a country with a very rich heritage. It is a country where pluralism could be a fact of life. It is a country where democracy is missing. It is a country where respect for human rights is unfortunately not there. I believe that the future is important for Iraq in the sense that we hope it will be an important vital part of this area. And I believe that the only way to achieve that is to encourage, as rapidly as possible, a meeting and a dialogue between all the components that make Iraq. This will, I believe, help them very much indeed in bringing about a change for the better and saving Iraq from what is a suffering Iraq now.
Hillary Bowker: Theres been quite a change over the last number of years, and Jordan is now at the forefront of the peace process, taking a very active role. How has this come about, do you believe, and what does it mean for the future of your country?
King Hussein: I believe that Jordan has found itself. Jordanians have found their country and have found that it has a message. It has something to say, it has something to contribute in this region. And Jordan is a democracy which we hope will offer an example to others in the region. It is a pluralistic society, and we hope that our respect for human rights will also be an example to others. We hope that we can do whatever is possible to stress the importance of the individual in shaping responsibly the future of his country wherever he is. As far as the peace process is concerned, we have always sought peace as a dream that has become a realitypeace for ourselves, our future generations, peace for our neighbors, peace for the region. And we get obviously all the advantages that hopefully will materialize in a change of quality of life for all Jordanians and for all people within this region.
Hillary Bowker: Your very active participation now in the peace process has certainly won you many plaudits in the West. There are those, however, who believe or at least say that they fear that this is still a kings peace. What does it take to make it a peoples peace as well?
King Hussein: I believe it is a peoples peace. It is coming along very very rapidly in that direction. The overwhelming majority of people in this country through the constitutional process have approved of peace, have opted for it. In fact, that was the case before we went to Madrid. We have recovered our land, we have recovered our rights in terms of water resources, and every single area of agreement or discussion within the context of the Jordanian-Israeli Peace Treaty has been covered satisfactorily and with conclusive results. People are mixing, meeting, working together. This conference is an example of that in terms of the private sector and its participation. A few days ago, in memory of the passage of one year since the ceremony in Aqaba, Jordanian and Israeli pilots flew in joint formations over all of Israel and all of Jordan. This time it was not to the wail of sirens that sent people scurrying for cover, but to looking up with hope, to salute to peace that is a real peace, a peace between people.
Hillary Bowker: This new warmth between Jordan and the United States, between Jordan and the West, is that bringing any specific dividends, do you think, to the country?
King Hussein: Well, I believe Jordan has always been there in the past and there came a period of time, as you might recall, when there were certain misunderstandings. But as far as we were concerned, our concern was always for the area, and we have always been proud of this friendship and relationship that now has resumed its warmth and probably is warmer than it was in the past.
Hillary Bowker: Do you believe that there can be concrete moves from this conference to create a foundation on which a lasting peace can be built?
King Hussein: I believe that this certainly is the case. And speaking of peace and enthusiasm for it and whether it is a kings peace or peoples peace, I think the amount of effort put into this conference by all Jordanians, by the private sector, by Jordanians everywhere, is an example of what peace means to them and what hopes they have for the future. I think that the results of the conference will come out very soon, in terms of agreements specifically reached during this period of time, and also paving the way for much more to happen in the future.
Hillary Bowker: Im just going to quote you for a minute. Youve described the race for peace or the peace process as still a race between those who believe in life and stability and the prisoners of the past with all of its horrors. What is the danger of that past still holding the peace process hostage?
King Hussein: This is what we are battling against. I think we have the upper hand because we have the majority of the people with us, and in any event making it a peace between people is the answer. Removing the fears they have of each other or have had over a long period of time. Seeing the human face of the other side, in each case, has created so far a very healthy atmosphere which we hope will continue. The danger is there. There will be those who will try to torpedo this, but my effort in particular to make it a warm peace, to get people to get together, is really the way and the answer I believe. It should never be a peace between governments or a kings peace or anything similar. It should be a peace between people, and this is where we are moving and we have achieved already a great deal.
Hillary Bowker: There can, many believe, be no peace without prosperity. How long do you think it will be before there can be some sort of concrete peace dividend, where people can see that their lives have improved, in order to strengthen this peace?
King Hussein: We need time obviously. Agreements reached today, some implementation will begin immediately, some areas will require feasibility studies and so on. But the cooperation, not only within the context of Jordan, between Jordan and its neighbors and in this case even Israel, in particular. All goes well for the future, and I think we will see some results soon and we are optimistic, hopeful and determined.
Hillary Bowker: King Hussein, thank you very much for joining us.
King Hussein: Thank you so much.