This question and answer session took place after King Hussein delivered a full address to the European Parliament. During the dialogue, parliamentarians asked His Majesty about a number of issues, including the future of Iraq, Jerusalem, Jordanian-Palestinian relations and the role of Palestinians living in Jordan. At the conclusion of the dialogue, His Majesty received a medal from the assembly.
Dialogue with the Parliamentary Assembly
of the Council of Europe
September 25, 1995
Moderator: Thank you Your Majesty. We have a number of questions. The first one will be asked by Mr. Gunar from Turkey. Mr. Gunar, please.
Gunar: Your Majesty, you have referred to the situation in Iraq in your excellent speech. May I ask the following question: In your opinion, what sort of a government or state should take shape in Iraq to take into account the three elements you have mentioned in your speech, and in what manner can your country contribute to the restoration of democracy, pluralism and the respect of human rights in that country? Thank you.
Moderator: Your Majesty, please.
King Hussein: Well, sir, thank you very much indeed for the opportunity to present further news or elaborate more on what I have already said. In regard to Iraq, sir, we are very very deeply concerned that a country that has suffered so long, may continue to suffer towards either, heaven forbid the name, explosion and a bloodbath brought about by fears between the three basic elements that form Iraq of each other or despair which might bring about the disintegration of that country. The degree of the suffering of the Iraqi people is obvious to us, and I am sure, to you in Turkey. And I believe that every effort should be made by all of us, by the Iraqis themselves, by all the Arab states and the Arab leaders, by the international community, to bring an end to the suffering, basically as it stands internally and externally.
Iraq is potentially a rich country. It has been throughout history. It is the land of the two rivers, it has energy and sources of energy the world needs, it has a dynamic people. What is going wrong is the absence of democracy, the absence of people sharing and shaping their future, the absence of the condition of pluralism, the emphasis of pluralism in their lives, and obviously the absence of respect for human rights. I have become more aware of late of the degree to which matters have deteriorated in Iraq. And that is where I have made my suggestions. I believe only the Iraqis themselves can determine exactly what their hopes and aspirations are in terms of the three basic elements that comprise Iraq. They can only do that through dialogue, dialogue by credible representatives of these three under conditions of freedom somehow to enable them to achieve national
reconciliation and bring an end to the suffering of the Iraqi people.
As you will all know, for a number of years, we and our Palestinian brethren have been talking about a possible confederation when conditions permit that in the future. It can only be if the people are free on the Palestinian side in terms of their land, in terms of their rights, to express themselves to make such a choice, and it can only be the result of our having a similar feeling and inclination in Jordan. But if a confederation is good enough for Jordan and Palestine, who are the closest members of the one family in the Arab world, maybe a federation in Iraq might be the answer for these three elements within the context of the one Iraq. Maybe their hope that the Armed Forces of Iraq will then respect only the new constitution of Iraq and be the instrument for the defense of Iraq and its future and the shield for the hopes of the Iraqi people will be fulfilled.
The problem is there, and I believe if we all worked toward achieving a solution and helping the people of Iraq, who are my main concern, and I am sure yours, then maybe this nightmare will be with us for not much longer. Thank you, sir.
Moderator: Thank you, Your Majesty. Mr. Gunar, do you want to put a supplementary question?
Gunar: Mr. Chairman, I am satisfied with the reply and I take this opportunity to express my gratitude and how I am pleased to see Your Majesty in this assembly.
Moderator: Mr. de Lipovsky from France will put the next question, and if you find it necessary, after this debate, that you want to ask also on Iraq? Mr. de Lipovsky, please.
Lipovsky: Your Majesty, your address is that of a brave statesman and a man of peace whom we all here greatly respect. I too would like to speak of Iraq, and to ask you, Sire, to clarify your thoughts because you have given asylum to General Hussein Kamil. You held talks with him. Is the information he gave you what made you pessimistic about Iraq's future? You seem to now fear more a destabilization of the situation than a national reconciliation. The second question is whether, in your opinion, the latest information given by Baghdad on the weapons programs is complete, and can it result in the lifting of the embargo?
Moderator: Thank you, Mr. de Lipovsky. Your Majesty, please.
King Hussein: Sir, thank you very much indeed for the opportunity and thank you for the kind words. Yes, sir, the recent events and the seeking of Lieutenant General Hussein Kamil of refuge in Jordan, together with his family and other members of his party, did have an effect, a profound effect, on me because hearing of conditions firsthand from a very highly-placed member of the Iraqi Government and indeed the presidential family--with his background of involvement in military armament during the eight long years of war with Iran and successes there, and bringing together brilliant Iraqi brains to serve their country, his involvement with the formation of the Republican Guard and Special Guard and Security, his role mainly in the aftermath of the war, in the reconstruction of the infrastructure of the country, but more importantly his closeness to the decision making apparatus in Iraq and his view of the sufferings of the people of Iraq which drove him to seek refuge in loran, because Jordan has always supported the people of Iraq--shook me beyond words.
One heard much about what was happening there, but to have a clearer picture from someone that close who was driven to despair due to the lack of ability to influence matters in a different way, was something that hurt, and hurt deeply. In any event, sir, the people of Iraq have suffered and are suffering beyond words. They are suffering from the siege, the embargo, and they are suffering the denial of many of their basic human rights. As far as the revelations regarding weapons of mass destruction, I believe the world has a clear picture of what was available, or planned. Maybe, this is something that can be removed of the list of demands made of Iraq, and, hopefully, it will, very, very soon.
Tragically, sir, I believe that what has been absent in all this crisis since 1990 and until this day is dialogue. First of all, dialogue with the Iraqis in terms of their leadership, and even dialogue amongst ourselves, amongst friends, amongst the international community as to what to do, and how to help bring an end to this situation and save the people of Iraq. That is where I wanted to make our positions very, very clear, to offer some suggestions that it is wherever people do not matter, wherever people do not have a stake, do not feel that they have a share in shaping their future, that problems will continue to occur, be it in our part of the world or anywhere else, and somehow, transformation from where we are to where we should be must be achieved in the time ahead.
But the continuation of the suffering of Iraq from the strangulation from without, and conditions as they are from within, is something that has got to be brought to an end, sir. Thank you very much.
Moderator: Do you want to ask another question, Mr. Lipovsky? Are you satisfied with the answer? Thank you. Mr. Alexander from the United Kingdom is third in the list. He wants to put a question. Please do, sir.
Alexander: Your Majesty, thank you for your interesting speech and indeed for your courtesy in agreeing, as head of state, to take questions from our Assembly. I had the privilege of visiting Jordan very recently and I understand it on the 23 of August in a TV broadcast, you took a perhaps stronger line than previously against the Iraqi regime. And of course your country is in favor of the abolition of the United Nations sanctions. My brief question is this: Accepting your difficulties as a neighbor of Iraq, wouldn't the abolition of sanctions merely prolong the rule of Saddam Hussein and enable his rule of terror and repression against his own people to continue for much longer?
Moderator: Thank you Mr. Alexander. Your Majesty, please.
King Hussein: Thank you very much indeed, sir, for your question, and particularly your appreciation of a head of a state taking questions. Over the years, I have become a man of all trades, sir. And so, it is a privilege to be here and a privilege to be able to answer your question as well. I do not know how in the English language I can make it more clear, sir, but my concern has always been the people of Iraq. Not the regime, not individuals. Nor will it ever be. My concern is the people of Iraq, their future, their suffering. And again, I explained earlier on, I tried after the very major error committed by Iraq in occupying Kuwait to cause a reversal of that action and to try at least within the Arab context to resolve the problem. But I have never been for the occupation of Kuwait or the annexation of Kuwait. I've spoken time and again of the inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by war. This is a principle or an element of the United Nations Charter, which we have respected and addressed at all times when problems occurred, including our support to our British friends during the Falklands problem because it is a principle we believe in. You will notice, sir, from what I have said, I hope, that I have put two things equally before you: the external pressure and the internal injustice and the need to address both, the need for Iraq to break out of both, the need for the Iraqi people to be a part of the world. Iraq was a founding member of the United Nations.
Iraq, in the context of the region, in the context of peace and the better future for the area would be a tremendous asset. The Iraqi people need help, It is all I'm saying. And to arrive there, we within the Arab world should get over our suspicions of each other and our . . . (pauses) I've admitted before you and I will continue to state it very categorically: I have no ambition personally in Iraq against the background of the fact that I was the second person after the late King Faysal of Iraq who was killed with his family in 1958, since there was a union between our countries. And what happened then was a thing of the past. Our family has given martyrs throughout our Arab history. That was their fate. I hope that it is clear I have no ambition there. I have no objective there except to see the country recover from where it is. Gentlemen, ladies, excuse my saying so, but when over the last few days we hear of Iraqis that have been driven to the point of selling their own organs to provide some food and sustenance for their children, I believe that this is something we cannot tolerate much longer. In the same vein, we cannot tolerate the injustice and the hardship and the cruelty and the denial of human rights in Iraq that persists now. But if we put our minds together, if we develop a consensus of what should be done, if we rise above--in our region--the questions of who wins and who loses, all of us will win if Iraq is healthy and not sick in our region. And I believe for the rest of the world it is also important that our area become more stable and Iraq become an element of stability in the area rather than continue to be what it is right now. Thank you, sir.
Moderator: Mr. Alexander, are you satisfied?
Alexander: President: I thank His Majesty for that reply.
Moderator: Thank you. The next question will come from Mr. Paplidis from Greece. Mr. Paplidis, please, you have the floor.
Paplidis: Your Majesty, we like first of all to welcome you and then to please to accept my congratulations for the effort you paid for long time for the peace in the whole area, where you stay (word indistinct) of Greece. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe formed an adhoc committee under the chairmanship of President Mr. Martinez, which, with the support of the Greek Parliament, organized in the island of Rhodes, where I come from, in July a meeting between the representatives from the Israeli and Palestinian parliaments to discuss the possibility of active contribution of our organization in the process for the implementation of the Middle East peace treaty. At that meeting, all the participants concluded that the Council of Europe with its potential and long experience it has in the fields of democratic institutions of human rights can help a lot the two sides for the consolidation of these values in this region, of course in the framework of the peace treaty. After that I would like to ask you Your Majesty if you believe that such an involvement could become, and this is a factor for the establishment of the permanent peace and cooperation between two sides, I mean Israelis and Palestinians. And then will I ask you: How your country can cooperate with us, the Council of Europe, to succeed the above target? Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you Mr. Paplidis. Your Majesty, please.
King Hussein: Thank you very much indeed sir, and I am sure that as a result of the recent great achievement of the new accord much progress will be forthcoming, including the possibility of elections in the very near future within the West Bank and Gaza and all the territories that fall under the control of the Palestinian representation, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. As far as we are concerned sir, we are working with several dimensions. We are working closely with our Palestinian brethren to see exactly how we can move ahead, how we can address problems of mutual interest: we are working beyond that in a three-way with Israel; we are working also with Egypt. So, there are various tracks in which we are all involved in trying to contribute to a vision of what the future should be and what the opportunities are that peace presents in our entire region. As far as our cooperation so, I hope it will continue and it will develop in the future. And we are very much a part of everything and anything constructive for the better future of the peoples of the region and the world. Thank you.
Moderator: Mr. Paplidis, you want to add something? Thank you Mr. Paplidis. Then Mr. Mimaruglu from Turkey is next in the list. Mr. Mimaruglu, please.
Mimaruglu: Your Majesty, let me congratulate you first of all of your speech, a blend of wisdom, ponderation, and pacific attitude. Your speech reflects your pacific attitude that you have been following for more than 30 years. Let me take an international term. King Hussein has been everywhere in the region, where there was trouble. So, he has been pacific and troubleshooter. In this context, Your Majesty, let me ask you one question. You, during your speech, you have been speaking about it but I think that we need some more elaboration on this. How do you see the future of the coexistence of all the states as they are in the region? Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you Mr. Mimaruglu. Your Majesty, please.
King Hussein: I can see it, sir, in the way I look at our friends here. I recall visiting the European Parliament before, and I recall the impressions that have remained with me since that time. What you have achieved is what we seek to achieve, and my hope and prayer at that time was that if I lived that long, I would one day be able to address an Arab parliament representative of Arab democracies of all the Arab states, and if I did not, well, I hope somebody will enjoy that before too long. This is the example before us. It is achievable with determination and vision, and I certainly hope we will achieve it. Relations in the Arab world should be relations based on mutual respect, noninterference in the affairs of each other, and cooperation wherever possible.
What would enhance that very much indeed is for all of us to understand that we cannot stop the clock nor turn it back, that people have rights everywhere, and it is our duty to pave the way for them as leaders to enable them to assume these rights and exercise them, that democracy, pluralism, respect for human rights is a way, that the creation of institutions where people share in shaping their future truly and honestly gives the best guarantee of continued stability and progress and better understanding not only amongst Arabs, but anywhere and everywhere in the world. So thank you very very much indeed, my friend, and I hope I have answered your question.
Moderator: Mr. Bomel from France has now a question. Mr. Bomel, please.
Bomel: Sire, while preparationss are underway to sign in a few hours time a historic agreement between the Palestinians and Israel, allow to ask you how do you envisage relations between the future Palestinian entity and your kingdom. To what extent can the idea you have supported for long and which you touched upon a short while ago about a Palestinian-Jordanian federation or a confederation can be achieved within a specific period of time? On what institutional basis; confederation, federation, a more flexible union? On what economic and social basis? Your Majesty, thank you.
Moderator: Thank you, Mr. Bomel. Your Majesty, please.
King Hussein: Sir, the answer in my mind is very, very clear. Its been very, very difficult, sir, to argue for one type of cooperation between brethren or another because absent freedom, democracy, elections, representation of people, and therefore the chance for them to express what they wish, any presentation on our side of how we see this future relationship might be counterproductive.
And very honestly, the Palestinians, our Palestinian brethren who are the closest to us of all Arabs and we are closer to them than all Arabs by virtue of history and geography and fact and life and equal suffering, have yearned to have their say regarding their future, have striven to recover their rights on their land. This is coming about, and the relations between our two countries are unique, between our two peoples, in other words.
Now in the context of peace in the region there, we are talking of a different region in terms of relations of all. But on the Palestinian-Jordanian level, it will come, sir, it will come in time, and you will find the best answers when people are free and able to concentrate on how this relationship should be.
What I seek, and again a reference to what I said earlier, is something that does not belong to individuals, that does not remain the question of a future tied to the survival of an individual or another. All my life Ive tried to get Jordanians to share in shaping Jordan, in making the decisions that we had to make. And I hope mat I will succeed in that, and I believe that I have to a very large extent and without that, without democracy, without people joining in shaping their future freely, I don't believe Jordan would have survived.
We have taken difficult stands, we have adopted policies that may not have been understood at the time, but we came together, we came to know each other, we came to take pride in ourselves and in our freedom, pride in our ability to express ourselves, to work together, to build our country.
So, I hope similarly on the Palestinian dimension progress will be made, and I'm sure it'll be made everywhere in the Arab World. And eventually it will be the Arab World that is worthy of every Arab and a source of his pride.
As far as Jordan is concerned and Palestinians in Jordan, as you know, we do not differentiate, they are all citizens in the country of Jordan. There is an area where some who left after 1967 will probably have to return, we have already arrangements for meetings and negotiations between Jordan, the Palestinians, Israelis, and Egyptians on this particular subject. Bur as far as the rest, they are people of Jordan, they have the same rights as all Jordanians, and they will continue to enjoy these rights fully until such time as any of them has an opportunity to make another choice, and that is their right.
We are one family in Jordan, and we'll continue to be so. And we will work to help our Palestinian brethren in Palestine to recover their rights, and we'll help to sort our problems between them and the Israelis, and we'll use the credibility that we have within Israel itself as a result of our direct dialogue and the successes that we have achieved to help create a peaceful Middle East and a better future for all its peoples in the times ahead. Thank you, sir.
Moderator: Thank you. Mr. Atkinson from the United Kingdom will put the next question. Mr. Atkinson, please.
Atkinson: Thank you, Mr. President. Your Majesty, in your absolutely excellent and inspiring and great foresight, your address this afternoon, you inferred that no one religion or country should have the overall custody of those places in the old city of Jerusalem that are holy to three religions.
So, my question to you, Your Majesty, and I'm sure, Mr. President, I will not need a supplementary: Would you support proposals which provide for the internationalization of the old city, possibly along the lines of the so-called Vatican plan, as part of a final outcome of the peace process?
Moderator: Your Majesty, please.
King Hussein: Sir, I tried to present my views as clearly as I could. I believe that (words indistinct) the reception they receive, I believe that more people are listening in the world and amongst those immediately concerned I cannot define exactly what the shape of things should be. In terms of the holy city, the old city of Jerusalem, I believe that it should not fall under the sovereignty of any, it should belong to all the followers of the three great monotheistic religions equally.
Each should have full rights recognized in the city, in terms of what is dear and precious to them. It should become the essence of peace, the symbol of peace. I've always had a very firm belief. If the almighty God in His wisdom did not make that very small part of the world that important to all the children of Abraham that they fight over it but they eventually find peace, respect each other, and each others rights and desist from fighting over sovereignty over that city, leaving sovereignty only to God.
So, the right formula will be found, I am sure, sir. If there is the acceptance of the idea and the vision and if we are to learn from the lessons of history and if we are determined never to repeat the same mistakes again. That is as far as the holy city of Jerusalem is concerned. The rest of the city of Jerusalem, the Western side, is the de facto capital of Israel in any event. The Eastern part is occupied.
I don't see why it should not be possible to have both parts become the capitals of both Palestinians and Israelis alike. And, just bringing another element of real and true peace within the immediate region and between all the followers of the three Abrahamic religions. Thank you, sir.
Moderator: Question, Mr. Maruflu, please.
Maraflu: Your Majesty: On behalf of the Turkish delegation, I would like to thank you very much for giving us this opportunity with your presence at this assembly to be in touch with developments in the region to which my country has geographical proximity and therefore close interests.
I would like to take this occasion to express to Your Majesty my satisfaction from the excellent relations existing so happily between our two countries. I assure Your Majesty that you and your family have great admiration and sympathy in Turkey. I have prepared questions again very much related with Iraq. But in replying to the previous colleagues, you answered most of them.
So again I would like to ask that how do you read the future of Saddam Hussein's regime in the light of the recent developments? Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you Mr. Maruflu. Your Majesty, do you want to add any comment to that?
King Hussein: I think, sir, that I've answered the question, and I share with you and with all our friends the concern for the people of Iraq, for Iraq's future, for its role within the region in a context of peace, prosperity, and progress. And again, sir, with regard to Jordanian-Turkish relations, Arab-Turkish relations, as far as we are concerned, we are proud of what exists between us and we hope that, together within the region, we will all always have the same views and the same approach to resolving any problems that might occur. Thank you very, very much, indeed.
Moderator: Thank you. Mr. Livinsky from Poland will put the next question. Mr. Livinsky, please.
Livinsky: My question is of a more general character. Your Majesty, the ideas of both pan-Arabism and pan-Islamism have undergone different changes through the decades since, for instance, the [words indistinct] time. How would you estimate them nowadays, and in this context, what's your opinion on the contemporary role of the League of Arab States as well as the Organization of the Islamic Conference? Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you Mr. Livinsky. Your Majesty, please.
King Hussein: Sir, as far as the pan-Arabism I have referred to that, I believe, in terms of my belief that our approach should be the approach that you have all taken here in Europe. The relations would be relations of complementarity, of respect of each other, of continuity, and the coming together, hopefully, of democracies, of people free to make their choices and live by them, of an era of stability in the region in the times ahead. An far as the relations between the Arab and Islamic world, well, Islam was born in the Arab world and our relations are those of brethren and very close brethren and will continue to be. As far as the organizations you referred to, with all due respect, I believe much more could be achieved in the future and should be achieved.
Sole: But for Mediterranean peoples only. So I beg you to develop more your feelings and expectations about the Barcelona conference. What do you expect from it, especially which must be in your opinion, the role of European countries, especially non- Mediterranean countries? Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you Mr. Sole. Your Majesty, please.
King Hussein: Thank you very much indeed sir, for the opportunity to answer your question. We are obviously looking forward to the conference to further the relations and ties between our region and Europe.
And in terms of the Mediterranean, between the two parts of the Mediterranean, as far as the Arab world is concerned and Europe, for we are neighbors and we are linked by many interests and many concerns, and many hopes for the future, and I'll be fully supportive to explore all the possibilities to the greatest possible extent. Thank you very, very much.
Moderator: Thank you, Your Majesty. This brings to an end this very moving day, moving part of our work. I want to tell you my friend that among the many privileges that I have held along for years, the presidency, and even today, one of them has been to be sitting here, listening to you and watching my colleagues. The attention, the concentration which those friends of mine who are the most solid and experienced politicians in our respective parliaments was extraordinary. But it was not only that. It was also the attention of the ambassadors from 36, or even 40 countries here present, listening to this exercise, and it has been a very great moment. It was very moving to see your ambassadors, your people, your friends, your ministers, and if I dare say, your queen, looking at you with very great pride. I think this pride is also what I feel all of us should enjoy because you have called us, several times, your friends. This is a title which I am going to be proud, and I think my colleagues are going to be proud, and are going to deserve by the solidarity which they will express, keep on expressing to yourself and to your people.
Your Majesty, our assembly wants to give you our [word indistinct] medal which certainly a number of distinguished guests have received. I don't believe any of them would have deserved it more than King Hussein. Your name, and the date of today is carved on the medal, and I did not want to do as we do sometimes, give it during the lunch or give in my office. I want to give it to you publicly, in front of all my colleagues, because I think, all of them join me in doing that.