This interview took place shortly after Radio Monte Carlo, MBC Radio and BBC Arabic service began transmitting from Amman on the FM frequency. As part of its ongoing efforts toward openness and communication, Jordan was the first Arab country to allow all three stations to broadcast from its territory.
Regionally, Iraq and the United Nations had just resolved a crisis over UN weapons inspectors access to Iraqi presidential sites. In this interview, King Hussein calls again for a direct dialogue between Iraq and the United States to lead to the implementation of all UN resolutions and the end of sanctions on Iraq. Concerning the stalemated peace process, His Majesty stresses the necessity of returning to the bases of peace, Security Council Resolutions 242 and 348, and the land for peace principle.
In a message to Jordanian and Arab youth, King Hussein tells them that the Arab world should follow the pragmatic road to unity that the European Union has travelled.
Radio Monte Carlo
Interviewer: Bisharah Ghanim al-Bun
March 2, 1998
(Translated from the original Arabic)
Al-Bun: Your Majesty, to start with, we would like to thank you for allowing Radio Monte Carlo to transmit on an FM frequency in Amman. This step is part of the policy of openness. How do you evaluate this experience and how can the political, economic, and media obstacles to it be overcome?
King Hussein: This issue, in fact, is always on our mind. We always think of what we can do about it. This is a step in the right direction; I am referring to the ceremony that we attended and the beginning of Radio Monte Carlo's transmission in Jordan. I believe that without such openness to the world, and without having channels of dialogue and communication, people would live in isolation from others and would be cut off from the pulse of life in this world. I believe we must always try to bring people closer to each other through ideas, dialogue, and openness. Then, the difficulties and challenges may be much less than they are now.
Al-Bun: Talking of openness and interaction, Jordan was always affected by the regional storms that swept the region from time to time. The latest storm left some traces. To what extent can Jordan be made immune to such implications in the future?
King Hussein: To answer your comment, I believe I must address more than one subject. First, yes, Jordan indeed is affected by what happens around it. It paid a heavy price every time things went out of harmony with its convictions, and it had to shoulder big responsibilities and endure big burdens. Here, we must focus on the nature of the Arab policywhat exactly is the Arab approach? Why is the Arab world unable to speak the same language and adopt the same policy and, consequently, make effective efforts at the world level?
The other dimension is related to democracy and responsible freedom, which we hope everyone will enjoy. Naturally, we run into trouble as we move along, but I believe the problems are small if compared with results, especially when people in this country realize that if they show good conduct and thought and engage in dialogue with others they positively affect not only Jordan, but the neighboring states and the entire Arab world. They can serve as a model that many [Arab countries] lack, which is one of the reasons for the general weakness, pain, and suffering in the whole region.
Al-Bun: What do you think are the lessons that can be learned from the recent crisis between Iraq and the United States? Are the conditions for a direct dialogue between Baghdad and Washington, which you are calling for, now available or is such a dialogue linked to the stay or departure of a certain individual or a certain regime?
King Hussein: In my view, dialogue is always necessary among all parties. At the same time I object to, and will resist as long as I live, the idea that any party in the world can change or replace [a ruler] or even have an opinion on who should assume the responsibility of governing any country anywhere, far or near. Those who can decide that a change should be made are the people living in that country, not any others. Hence, a dialogue is required, a dialogue that will give each side involved in the issue the opportunity to present its views and define its stand. Only then can one examine the prospects of progress in ending the dispute and reaching positive results that are satisfactory to everyone. I believe that as regards the recent crisis, which I hope has ended and the removal of its aftermath and repercussions has begun, a dialogue would not be as useful if done through third parties as it would be if it were direct. We must also stress that a dialogue can produce the results and guarantees that are required by those concerned and by everyone else. I believe this is much better than viewing things from the perspective of inspectors, monitors, or the use of a police methods. These may not be useful if the concerned party is not committed to a certain responsibility. This is my opinion.
Al-Bun: Do you think we are now at the beginning of the end of the crisis or do you believe, as others do, that the crisis was just postponed?
King Hussein: We hope we are at the beginning of the end of this crisis and at the beginning of a new dawn in which Iraq once again lives in this world and regains the position it should occupy, especially the Iraqi people, who have suffered so much. I believe this is linked, at this stage, to accurate commitment to implementing everything agreed upon so that this can strengthen all efforts that are being made to move from this stage to a new constructive stage, God willing.
Al-Bun: Since we are talking about Jordan's neighbors, how are Jordan's relations with its Syrian and Iraqi neighbors, and how can the clouds in the relations with Damascus and Baghdad be removed?
King Hussein: There is no reason for such clouds. Perhaps you used a good description when you said clouds. Clouds cannot stay indefinitely, and anyway, there is no justification for them. They will pass, God willing.
Al-Bun: Do you have any message to address to President Saddam Hussein or President Hafiz al-Asad?
King Hussein: There is no specific message. But I tell them that we are in the position of responsibility at this stage in the life of this nation. No one of us will live for ever. We have responsibilities toward the coming generations. We pray that God will help us serve them and secure a better life for all of them.
Al-Bun: Your Majesty, is there a need for new Camp David negotiations to advance the peace process on the Palestinian-Israeli track, as Binyamin Netanyahu is calling for? Or do you think that the precondition for facilitating the process is the implementation of what has already been agreed upon?
King Hussein: I believe we must return to the principles on which the peace process, which was launched to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in this region, was based. We must return to Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, and to the land for peace principle. We must accurately implement everything that has been agreed upon so that there will be credibility for this process and so that people can feel that this method will yield the required results. I cannot comment on the idea of a new Camp David because it is the right of the Palestinian brothers to express their opinion on it. But at the same time, I am against those who say: Let us leave the Palestinian brothers and see what they are going to do. So once again, the question is: What is the Arab policy? Where do we stand vis-à-vis this basic question, and how can we support efforts aimed at achieving a just, honorable, and comprehensive solution that leads to the establishment of the Palestinian state on Palestinian soil, with its capital in Jerusalem; to the restoration of the Golan and the occupied Lebanese territories; and consequently to openness and a full peace?
Al-Bun: Do not you think, however, that Washington's insistence on implementing UN resolutions in Iraq must be accompanied by a more effective US intervention to make the Israeli stance more flexible and also to reactivate the Syrian-Israeli negotiating track?
King Hussein: I have already raised this idea with the US leadership, and others in this world because the responsibility on this matter is a collective one, and I will continue raising it. I also raise the issue from an Arab viewpoint with my brothers and kinfolk in the greater Arab homeland because we also must adopt a position that bolsters the Palestinian effort to restore Palestinian rights to the Palestinian people on their national soil. I believe that we, in the Arab world, feel that different criteria are being used in connection with two issues in this region. This is impermissible, unjustified, and unacceptable. For this reason, we hope that matters will move in the right direction before it is too late.
Al-Bun: How do you think the so-called neighbors forum can be put into practice, and what position does Turkey occupy in any security or economic regional arrangements?
King Hussein: Turkey is a neighbor with which we have deep-rooted relations. It expressed much interest in and made big efforts toward [resolving] the recent Iraqi crisis. Together with us, Turkey insists on Iraq remaining united and exercising its sovereignty over its territory without any encroachment that may change the situation in the whole region and may even negatively affect the world. The dialogue with Turkey continues, and we have good relations. All these relations, with Turkey and other nations, must serve our common interests, in the broad, not the narrow sense. These relations must be built on mutual respect, frankness, clarity, and recognition that, in many cases, what affects us affects them and vice versa. This is the nature of things.
Al-Bun: What about the other brothers in the Gulf states?
King Hussein: Our relations with them are excellent. Praise be to God, they are back to what they should be, and we are working more and more to improve them. Naturally, what disturbs them disturbs us, and we hope that the picture in the future will be as we wish it to be for all the Arab countries in terms of cooperation and coordination between their leaders in a better way, God willing.
Al-Bun: This is our last question, Your Majesty. We are at the threshold of the year 2000. What is your message to the Jordanian youths in particular and the Arab youths in general?
King Hussein: Not to despair. And they should have a great deal of determination, resolve, self-confidence, and confidence that justice will inevitably triumph and that we will achieve what we can achieve, God willing, to regain the status that befits our nation. At the same time, I believe things will not remain as they are now, and that the Arab world will be no less, in terms of composition and relationships, than the European Union and the other countries that witnessed wars and tragedies (and yet have proven the benefits) that can be achieved through dialogue and cooperation. There are dozens of reasons for us to follow the experience of the Europeans and see it materialize in reality here. Perhaps it is now clear that the Arab nation cannot rally around a certain individual or a group of people. Arab relations must be based on cooperation in all areas and on mutual trust and respect and awareness that we have common interests and that no one will live forever. Therefore, we must take every opportunity and work every minute, hour, day, and night to come up with an Arab position to honor ourselves with.
Al-Bun: On this hopeful note, we leave you and thank you in the name of the Radio Monte Carlo family, colleague Randa Habib, and myself.
King Hussein: God bless you.