At the State Banquet Hosted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and His Royal Highness Prince Philip
6 November 2001
May I start by thanking Your Majesty and His Royal Highness Prince Philip, for myself and for Queen Rania, for a memorable evening on this, the first day of our state visit to the United Kingdom.
I see here many friends of my late father, King Hussein. His Majesty deeply believed in the strong bonds of friendship between Jordan and Britain.
My late father began his reign, as some of you know, within months of Your Majesty's accession to the throne. And I know how greatly he valued the companionship and judgement that your friendship provided.
That friendship extended to our entire country. The visit that Your Majesty and Prince Philip paid to Jordan in 1984 is recalled fondly by many Jordanians.
So these friendships were very important in my late father's life, and, of course, Britain and its people have also been important in my life; from my early years in school in Surrey, and later my military training at Sandhurst and academic tuition at Oxford.
Every time I return, it is a wonderful experience; one that I have enjoyed sharing with Rania and our children.
I must confess, however, that as colourfully as I describe my school days here to my children, my stories can't compete with what they have heard about a castle where students arrive on a red locomotive; the classroom next door holds a three-headed dog; and all the teachers are leading British actors.
I tell them, that's not how I remember it! Although I might have had a teacher who looked like Robbie Coltrane.
But that was at Oxford.
In truth, things do change. I recently saw an Internet diary by Sandhurst cadets. An Internet diary – that's different enough – and one new cadet was describing his first day at Old College. The first thing he did, he says, was whip out his mobile phone and check the reception. It gave him a "reassuring connection" to his old life.
Well, that's not now I remember things either!
But the fact is that as much as our world does change, some things remain solid. Here in Britain, it is the hand of friendship: the inherent tolerance and quiet decency of the British people; your sense of fairness, justice and moderation.
This rich legacy has not just been to the benefit of Britain, but has resonated far beyond these shores.
In Jordan, like so many nations in the world, British traditions have served as a model for our public institutions.
But Britain has also been a model for innovation and enterprise – the home of a resourceful people who have built creative new industries in areas such as design, high technology and the service sector.
And that spirit of enterprise too is something that our countries share.
Visitors to our country marvel at the natural beauty of the River Jordan and the coral reefs of the Red Sea. But I tell them that the real marvels are our ancient cities of Petra and Jerash, known throughout the world as crucibles of ancient civilisation.
And the cities of Amman, Aqaba and Irbid, which, the Guinness Book of World records tells us, has the street with the most Internet cafes on it, are the crucibles of 21st century Jordan.
In ancient times, Jordan stood at the crossroads of the world, a place whose people fought natural scarcity, and turbulent events to build great cities and a world culture.
Today, Jordan still occupies a central role in our region; a region that is itself central to the world's future.
We are a small nation. Jordan has not been blessed with vast mineral wealth. Our country lacks many natural resources, even water.
But we are blessed with a wealth of creative, energetic people. Jordan has a work force that is now, per capita, more computer literate and entrepreneurial and better educated than most developing countries.
We are also a young people, with most of the population under the age of 29.
But we have found promise in our youth – through a relentless focus on education.
Jordan's spending on education as a percentage of total government spending is among the highest in the Arab and developing world.
To help our students compete in a global economy, we are putting thousands more computers into the classroom, and strengthening the curriculum with information technology and more English-language classes.
I believe there is even more room for improvement in aspects of gender, employment and income. But I am pleased to tell you that, according to respected international human development indices, Jordan has made significant advances.
This is an important foundation as we go forward to meet the challenges and grasp the opportunities of the century ahead.
It is impossible to discuss that future without reference to the crisis that currently embroils both our countries, as well as the rest of the civilised world.
Here, I would like to pay tribute to the superb quality of the British army which is admired throughout the world. And I say that as a Jordanian – a Jordanian military officer – one who is proud to have been associated with so many outstanding fellow officers in the British armed forces.
For our part, Jordan will continue to play its full part in countering the evil of terrorism.
Jordanians were filled with horror at the events in America, but we are also filled with resolve to create a safer world.
We also greatly appreciate the leading role Britain has played in making it clear that this is not a battle between Islam and the West.
Britain's Muslim population can take great reassurance from your traditions of tolerance and humanity. But your dedication to respecting Islam also sends an important message around the world in defence of universal civilised values. And as we defend those values, we must also seek ways to create a more peaceful and harmonious world.
One important step will be to address the long-standing Arab-Israeli conflict that blights the Middle East and the lives of so many ordinary people. This conflict, and all the violence and injustice it represents, has been a breeding ground for hatred, mistrust and extremism.
Your Majesty, when you visited Jordan in 1984, as the guest of my late father, you referred to the tragedy of the Palestinian people.
That was 17 years ago, before many of the youth of our region – youth now caught up in conflict – had even been born.
So it is imperative that we give new impetus to efforts to bring a just, comprehensive and lasting peace to the Middle East.
My goal, simply put, is a fair and balanced resolution: justice for the Palestinian people and security for Israel, and one that realises the right of the Palestinians to a viable, independent state and respects Israel's right to exist.
I know that Britain shares this vision, and I believe that together, we will have the opportunity to help achieve it.
My friends here know I am a practical man. And for a practical man, I've already talked too long. But let me just say one thing in closing.
Britain and Jordan are old friends in a new century. The path ahead is not and will not always be clear. What is clear is that we will find our way together.
Your warm welcome this evening is a powerful symbol of this partnership.
In that same spirit, let me offer to you, Your Majesty, to Prince Philip and all the British people, the lasting regard, the deep affection and the solid friendship of the people of Jordan. It is for this friendship that I would like to propose a toast:
To the health and happiness of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, and to the members of the British royal family. To the continue prosperity and well-being of the people of the United Kingdom.