This brief press conference took place after His Majestys meeting with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during a visit to the United States in March, 1998. The visit came after an imminent military confrontation was resolved by an agreement between Iraq and the United Nations, against the backdrop of a prolonged crisis in the Arab-Israeli peace process. While in the United States, His Majesty reiterated calls for the United States to open a direct dialogue with Iraq and announce a US initiative for the long-awaited second Israeli pullback from the West Bank.
His Majesty King Hussein and
US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
March 19, 1998
Secretary Albright: It is a great pleasure for me to welcome King Hussein to Washington once again. There is no question that His Majesty has the highest respect of the American people, who all admire his courage and his vision and his tenacity, and his ability, I think, to share his wisdom and be a good friend and partner. So Im very, very pleased to have a chance to already have had some meetings with him, and were going to continue. We just had a lunch in which we were able to discuss several of the most important issues. We discussed the Middle East peace process, and I explained to His Majesty that the United States is dedicated to making the process move forward; that 1997 was not a good year for the peace process, and so far 1998 has not exactly been terrific; but that we are looking at how to proceed, and looking at the pacing in terms of the ideas that we have presented to the parties.
We also talked about Iraq and the importance of Saddam Hussein living up to his obligations to the Security Council and, therefore, the international community; and the actions that we took together to make that message very clear, our support for the Secretary Generals agreement and for UNSCOM inspections going forward.
We will continue our discussions a little later, and then His Majesty will see the President tomorrow. I would just like to say, again, Your Majesty, how very pleased I am to have you here and to have a chance to share views with you.
King Hussein: Madame Secretary, I would like to say how proud and happy I am to have the opportunity to be with you here today, and to continue our discussion and dialogue in an effort to search and find a greater commonality of views on all issues as they develop and evolve. We are proud of you and what you have accomplished and what you are trying to accomplish. And we count very heavily on the United States to help, in particular, over the issue of the peace process, and the fact that it appears stalled at the moment.
It is so very, very important for the future of our region for all our peoples to seize the opportunity and not permit conditions to deteriorate beyond what they have reached now, but to continue to build and to continue to attempt to present future generations with the kind of life thats worthy of them.
Over Iraq, this is not the first time weve addressed the subject. We are, and have been, very, very clear regarding the need for complete and comprehensive compliance with UN Security Council resolutions. And we hope that we will see that become a reality. Of course, we are concerned for the people of Iraq, and its a concern we share. Lets hope that one day we will see a different situation.
As far as I am concernedI have said it over the yearsI visualize Iraq as a free country, as a democracy, as an example of pluralism. I hope that the people of Iraq will be able to come together in dialogue to live in a democracy, which is on the way. That would ensure that Iraq can contribute a positive role to the future of the region. And well continue to work for that to the best of our ability.
Unnamed journalist: Madame Secretary, are you attempting to arrange a meeting next week in Europe with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat? And how does that fit in with the visit here this week of the Uzi Arad and Nathan Scharansky?
Secretary Albright: Well, let me say that I am going to Europe next week to chair a meeting of the Contact Group in Bonn, and to focus on the issue of Kosovo. As I said, we are looking at how to really breathe life again into the Middle East peace process, and are looking at how the process can be moved forward in relationship to the ideas that the President has presented to the leaders in their previous visits here. We will be examining a variety of ways of trying to move the process forward as fast as we can in light of what I believe is a real necessity to have it moved forward so that 1998 can, in fact, be a stellar year for the Middle East peace process.
Unnamed journalist: Madame Secretary, what happened to the American initiative and the American package that youve been talking about? Whats the reluctance? Why are you late in presenting ideas? The situation on the ground is getting more explosive.
Secretary Albright: Let me say that we are constantly examining ways to push the process forward, and have been discussing it with the parties at a variety of levels. As I said, we are looking at all the ways to move the process faster.
Unnamed journalist: Madame Secretary, can you comment on what you make of yesterdays altercation in Jerusalem between the British Minister of Foreign Affairs and the security forces? Do you think it helps or hurts Britains desire to become more involved in the peace process at this point?
Secretary Albright: Well, let me say that I dont think that commenting on the activities of my fellow foreign ministers is what we should be focusing on. The truth is that what has to happen here is that the leaders, the parties in the region that are part of the problem in terms of trying to resolve the Middle East peace process, mustare the ones who have to make the decisions. The focus is on them, and they are the ones that need to make the hard decisions.
The rest of us can serve a variety of roles in pushing the process forward and providing ideas and being catalytic. But it is up to them to really make the hard decisions. They are the ones that are in charge of the process.
Unnamed journalist: Madame Secretary, did you discuss the Turkish-Israeli military cooperation? And His Majesty, do you think Jordan will be joining shortly in this military cooperation?
Secretary Albright: We did not discuss that, but our discussions are not over.
King Hussein: As far as we are concerned, we have excellent relations with Turkey, and we believe that they are very important, in terms of the region itself. There is no plan to join any coalition, or whatever it might be described as, because on the bilateral level, we have excellent relations.
Secretary Albright: Thank you.