Interview with His Majesty King Abdullah II

Ramadan Rawashdeh
Jordan News Agency (Petra)
06 November 2007
(Translated from Arabic)

Petra: Your Majesty, Jordan stands at the threshold of parliamentary elections. What is the message that Your Majesty would like to send to the Jordanian people on this occasion?

King Abdullah: Parliamentary elections are a constitutional requirement and a step along the right path to develop Jordan politically, economically and socially. Elections are key to strengthening Jordan's democratic process and translating our aspirations so that we can build a modern and model Jordan, where the values of justice, equality, pluralism and equal opportunity prevail. I have emphasised on more than one occasion that the government is required to conduct free, fair and transparent elections that guarantee wide voter participation and I hope that citizens will participate and practice their right to choose the candidate that is most efficient and capable of conveying their voice and of placing the national interest ahead of all other considerations.

The next phase is crucial and requires concerted efforts by all citizens, especially the legislative authority which bears the greater responsibility in drafting and endorsing legislation that regulates citizens' lives, and in monitoring the performance of the executive authority within the framework of the Constitution. Hence the importance of choosing the best, most capable and patriotic candidate.

Petra: Your Majesty, many pessimists say that the next parliament will not be different from its predecessor because no major developments have been achieved in political life.

King Abdullah: The fact that these views appear indicates that we are seeing developments in political democratic life in Jordan, especially since the voters' mood towards their representatives in parliament is bound to be reflected in their electoral choices in the coming years. This is a tangible development in the relationship between voters and their MPs.

I am very keen to develop democratic political life and foster the role of parties so that they have clear programmes and mechanisms and an effective presence in the next elections. In parallel to efforts exerted to develop political life, there must be a development of citizens' awareness in order for us to achieve a strong legislature that includes representatives of all political and social currents. I am very hopeful that the next parliament will be extremely efficient and that its members will contribute to developing political life and will be a major part of this process, because political development is a comprehensive project and is the responsibility of everyone. I am confident and reassured of my people's ability to make our democratic march succeed.

I had hoped that 2007 would be a year of political parties with realistic and clear programmes, but we still need more time and effort to achieve that objective. National forums have contributed political concepts that can positively affect our democratic progress, and political parties have a major role in adopting and fostering these ideas.

Petra: What about after the elections? How does Your Majesty view the next phase in Jordan's march?

King Abdullah: As I mentioned earlier, the next phase is important for Jordan's future, and we will do whatever we can so that this phase will be one of implementation and tangible achievement of programmes and plans that have matured and that are a product of national forums and meetings like the National Agenda and We Are All Jordan and others. These emanated from popular consensus throughout society. This requires the government to take their recommendations into consideration when drafting long- and short-term national policies. This also requires the government to organise the tasks of state institutions to correspond to the recommendations and programmes that came from these forums. In my opinion, the National Agenda in particular diagnosed reality, defined the problems and proposed mechanisms for solutions within a timeframe and in accordance with performance indicators. It is a fitting reference for governments in organising priorities and objectives, outlining future plans particularly regarding economic issues, human resource development, health care, mineral wealth and providing significant solutions to water and energy resource problems.

The next phase also requires intense efforts to find and provide job opportunities for Jordanian youth who will be joining the work force and to arm youth with the best education and training so that they become an effective and productive element that contributes to the leap in quality that we seek for Jordan. This, in my view, is the most appropriate solution to decrease unemployment and provide real opportunities for citizens to have a decent life. As for me, I have said on many occasions that providing social security for citizens across the Kingdom by securing housing, health care, education and transport is a top priority. I stress here that this is especially important for those with limited income. I have asked the government to provide them with special care and increase its support to them.

I have also directed the government to work on including, in the next national budget, a comprehensive social security network and to adopt a new mechanism that would tie citizens' income to inflation levels in order to alleviate the burdens of price hikes that we face today. I am hopeful that next year will be a year of more construction and achievement that will see positive economic development and will contribute to lifting citizens' income level in a just and tangible way.

Petra: Your Majesty, we see your travels and trips around the world, especially your latest Asia visit which included a trip to China. How will you employ these visits to serve Jordan's economic and political interests?

King Abdullah: Jordan has always sought to build political and economic partnerships with many world countries. In the economic field, vital sectors like energy, water and infrastructure need international support and expertise to ensure the best possible planning and greatest accuracy in implementing projects. This is why I visited Asian states, most prominently China where we signed economic agreements worth millions of dollars and benefited from our distinguished relations with world countries. It will not stop at this; we will continue our efforts to establish partnerships that will positively impact our national economic performance and will improve Jordanians' living standards. I will also visit Britain and Germany in the next few days to discuss political developments in the region and ways that these countries can help Jordan's efforts to alleviate its debt burden, in addition to meeting economic and political leaders in these countries.

Petra: Your Majesty, we understand the importance of international partnerships to develop Jordan and serve its interests. But what about the necessary mechanisms to provide the proper local environment for these partnerships to succeed?

King Abdullah: We have started a series of economic and developmental domestic projects to prepare our national economy and work force to benefit from any partnership or future investment opportunities. We will continue to pursue the establishment of several economic and development areas in the country's main regions. The main objective of these is to provide job opportunities and train Jordanian youth to be able to compete in Arab and international markets and ensure the just distribution of developments throughout the country.

Yesterday, I inaugurated a vocational training project for civilians in the armed forces, where they will be trained and employed in the construction sector. I have directed the prime minister to expand this programme to include 5,000 youths in the first phase. The project will eventually train 30,000 people by the time it ends. The objective of this programme is to provide job opportunities for thousands of young men and women from different governorates.

Over the next phase, work should be focused on developing the legislative infrastructure in order to provide the legal foundation for incentivising the private sector to invest in economic projects, especially in sectors such as water, energy and infrastructure. We also need to boost and improve exports of Jordanian products and services and increase Jordan's attractiveness for Arab and international tourism.

Petra: There is a lot of political speculation about the international peace meeting in Annapolis. What is Your Majesty's personal reading of the opportunities for success at this meeting?

King Abdullah: Our priority is the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on Palestinian soil, and we will spare no effort to help the Palestinians achieve this goal through peaceful negotiations. The largest part of our efforts and contacts over the last few years have been dedicated to carrying the Palestinian cause to every international forum, because it is our conviction that the Palestinian question is also a Jordanian issue and the Palestinian cause is the Jordanian people's cause as much as it is the Palestinians. This is also because we believe the future of the region and the stability and security of its people is connected to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Regardless of the speculation about the peace meeting, our priority remains: we will defend Palestinian rights. Jordan was, from the beginning, among those who sought to convene this meeting, because we see it as an opportunity to contribute to ending the state of regional tension, end the Israeli occupation, pave the way for a just solution to the Palestinian issue and ensure the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. In our view, the meeting undoubtedly constitutes a valuable opportunity to return to negotiations that are serious and time-framed and can lead to a comprehensive solution that would secure inalienable Palestinian rights - rights in Jerusalem, the right of return, a sovereign state and peace and security for all.

Petra: Your Majesty, do you sense positive signs either from the Palestinians or Israelis about the Annapolis meeting?

King Abdullah: I have sensed seriousness and great concern from the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to drive the peace process towards a conclusion, an independent Palestinian state. We also heard from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert two days ago that there would be an opportunity to realise real achievements including a two-state solution before the end of US President Bush's term, and he described the Annapolis meeting as an opportunity to achieve progress. These are positive signs that we hope will be followed by more measures to make the upcoming meeting a success.

Petra: Your Majesty, we realise the priority of the Palestinian cause due to the historic ties and the national interest. But there are also Arab issues in our neighbourhood - in Lebanon and Iraq. How does Your Majesty view developments in these two countries?

King Abdullah: Iraq is an integral part of the Arab and Islamic world, and its security and stability reflects on its neighbours. This is why the Arab countries need to work to ensure Iraq's unity and Arab character. We count on the Iraqi people's awareness and its political leadership to frustrate the plans that others have to undermine their unity and sovereignty. We in Jordan oppose any plan that threatens the territorial integrity of Iraq and seeks to fragment it, and we stress that the Iraqis themselves are most capable of drafting their own future. As for our Iraqi brothers in Jordan, we share with them our livelihood, and they here among family. We are committed to providing them with all facilities until they are able to return to their country to participate in its reconstruction.

As for the political crisis facing Lebanon, we stress our support for the constitutionalism of Lebanon's presidential elections which we see should necessarily be free and conducted in accordance with Lebanon's constitution.

Petra: Your Majesty, are you satisfied with the level of coordination among Arab leaders? I would also like to ask about developments in the peace process and their impact on relations among Arab countries.

King Abdullah: Jordan constantly coordinates and consults with brotherly Arab countries. Coordination with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Gulf states is systematic. We have managed to formulate a united position towards several challenges facing the Arab nation, and I would like to stress here that Jordan's doors are always open to other Arabs. For in the end, we seek coordination and consultation with everyone out of our conviction that the challenges facing the Arab countries require cooperation in order that they do not grow and so that the Arab citizen does not find himself hostage to these challenges. We should all remember that lack of coordination and disunity among Arab countries opens the field to regional powers eager to implement their agendas. This is definitely something we wholeheartedly oppose.