August 8, 1994
KING HUSSEIN: Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Secretary of State Warren Christopher, and to all our friends who join with us today in this meeting here in Aqaba, Jordan, and who have taken part in yet another step which was agreed upon the inauguration of the road link between Aqaba and Eilat, for tourists and visitors to use in the times to come.
We have had the chance to look at all the progress that has been achieved so far in terms of the Washington Declaration. I had an opportunity to express once again appreciation of President Clinton’s hospitality, of the warmth of with which we were received, both Prime Minister Rabin and I in Washington, and all the support that we received. We feel as we address you today that we are friends and partners moving with determination, vision, commitment towards building the foundations for a comprehensive peace in this region. Essentially moving to address all the problems that need to be faced and addressed adequately to ensure that beyondwards we can transform this region to what it should be. I’d like to seize the opportunity in addressing our Israelis viewers on this occasion to see that I am very happy to have this opportunity once again to reiterate what not only I feel, but I’m proud the overwhelming majority of the people of Jordan feel in terms of the commitment to peace and to the future that is the right of generations to come to enjoy and protect.
It’s really hard at times to believe that so much has happened in a very short space of time. Yesterday, today I was recalling that it was only two weeks ago that the first meetings took place here on our common border and almost just about that since we received the kind invitation to visit Washington and our visit there. But we are determined and we are committed. And we are confident that with God’s blessings we will fulfill our duties to our generations to come and live in peace. The kind of peace that I felt myself is something I never experienced over the very many years that have passed. I hope it is something that we will leave for all peoples, for men, women and children to live with and enjoy in the future.
Remember those who have fallen and indeed it was also a very moving experience for all of us today to see their children come together, and to see many who stood on different sides of the issues, apart in the past within our military forces, meet in friendship and hope and optimism regarding the future.
Prime Minister, Secretary, I welcome you very heartily and all your colleagues.
Thank you so much.
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: Your Majesty, Your Highness, The Secretary of State, first and foremost I would like to thank you in the name of my colleagues to the cabinet, the Foreign Minister of Israel, and my other colleagues for the most gracious and warm hospitality here in Aqaba.
I believe that on the 25th of July, when we met in Washington and we signed together the Washington Declaration, it was a landmark in the history of the Middle East, in the history of the relations between Jordan and Israel, and a landmark in the history of the road to peace.
It was not just a declaration. We see that within two weeks, we have started to implement it. Yesterday, telephone connections were made between Jordan and Israel, between Israel and Jordan. And Your Majesty had a telephone call from the President of Israel, President Weizmann. Today, Your Highness, myself, the Secretary of State, our colleagues, opened a real opening of a border that was closed and symbolically this crossing, international crossing between Jordan to Israel, between Aqaba and Eilat, is in a place that served as a minefield for many decades. The mines were cleared, the road is free, the future is in pursuing what we have started now.
I don’t believe that this could be achieved without your vision and courage, Your Majesty. You led your people through difficult periods and you make the right decisions, now a very courageous decision, that no doubt changes the face of the Middle East today. I believe that what we have started will be continued and we’ll find many issues on which we can cooperate. You mention, Your Majesty that in a small group discussed the details of the negotiations that tomorrow will start in two places. In the tent in the Arava for the last time, and in the Dead Sea company hotel on our side. And I am sure that by intensive negotiations, we’ll find ways to overcome obstacles, differences as we have succeeded in doing till today.
I believe that what has started in Washington, by the Washington Declaration, no doubt is a new chapter, not only in the relations between Jordan and Israel. I believe it serves as an example what can be achieved in the relations, between Israel and the other Arab countries, between the other Arab countries and Israel. Because after all our mutual purpose, goal, is comprehensive peace. To solve once and forever, the Arab-Israeli conflict in all its entirety.
I would like also to thank the Secretary of State for the United States help, the personal involvement of President Clinton and you Mr. Secretary, in bringing about and assisting that these historic events will take place. We rely on the continuation of the United States assistance and support to the development of the relationship between Jordan and Israel; politically, economically and otherwise. We believe that the U.S. has shown great leadership in helping, assisting, the parties to the conflict, to overcome it and as you Your Majesty said in your famous speech on the lawns of the White House, ‘We achieved the end of war, we are in the process of building the structure of peace.
Thank you very much Your Majesty in the name of all of us here.
MR. CHRISTOPHER: His Majesty, Your Highness, Mr. Rabin, Mr. Majali, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today is a reflection of the great deal of work that’s been done by a number of people over many years. Many of them are here in our presence, two are certainly here at the table, Your Majesty, when I reflect on the fact I suppose it’s accurate to say that it’s almost forty-three years that you have been pursuing the goal that comes about today. It’s a very good thing for the world to see this happening today with all the intractable problems that face the world, it’s a tonic to know that some seemingly intractable problems do have their solutions.
It was entirely appropriate today that we focused primarily on the bilateral relationships between Jordan and Israel, for those two countries now have an opportunity to demonstrate what the real benefits of peace are, to show the world what a warm peace is, to show the kind of things that can emerge from the relationship that’s being developed. But in addition to that, we discussed some other matters that looked to the future. We discussed a meeting of the trilateral group that is the U.S., Israel and Jordan which will take place some time in September and will focus on regional development projects. We also discussed the Casablanca conference on regional development which will take place on the 31st of October. That’s a great opportunity to unlock some of the resources in this region for the benefit of the people of the region.
So, it’s an extraordinary day, and I want on behalf of the President and the American people to congratulate both Israel and Jordan and their leaders, but also to say that the U.S. will remain with you, will continue our economic and political support for this endeavor, inspired as we are by these recent events.
Thank you Your Majesty.
Q: Will displaced Palestinians living in Jordan since ’67 be allowed to return to the West Bank if they chose to do so? On the other hand, will Jordan have access to the West Bank market or will the West Bank continue to be treated as a captured market for Israel alone?
PM RABIN: Before I’ll answer, I was told Your Majesty that in two days you will celebrate the 42nd anniversary of your coming to the throne of the Kingdom of Jordan. I wish you all the best.
Now to the question. It was agreed that there will be a committee once it will be established between Jordan, the Palestinians, Israel and Egypt. We propose that this committee on the level of Foreign Ministers that will deal with many issues including the displaced persons. I believe that and invitation was issued, or will be issued for the convening of such a committee and the committee will discuss it. I don’t believe that at this stage, it will be advisable for me to say what will be the results. The issue was brought up from many corners and this is what has been agreed on.
As far as Jordanian markets, I believe that for a long time, there was no major problem on the part of Israel, and as you know till this moment, we are there in the West Bank, Judea, Samaria with the exception of the limited area of Jericho. I can believe that the problem can be discussed in the economic subcommittee.
Q: In Washington, two weeks ago, I asked you how far do you think we are from a full peace treaty between Jordan and Israel and you answered not very long. Two weeks after Washington, so much happened, can you elaborate?
KING HUSSEIN: I can only add that I’m happy to know that what I said is true in terms of the rapid progress that has been achieved because there is a will to achieve progress and to address all the remaining problems in a satisfactory way. And again, I can’t forecast a day or a time, but serious negotiation is going on on all the issues that need to be addressed. It is of particular importance that there they be addressed as rapidly as we can achieve that for people to feel the results and the benefits of all our efforts to the attainment of peace. A peace treaty will come as a crowning achievements of all these efforts, and I hope not before too long.
Q: Your Majesty, the Israeli government has invited you to visit Jerusalem. Have you decided on what date you will visit.
KING HUSSEIN: I have not decided on a date so far. I have received their invitations, I hope that before too long I will be able to respond to the kind invitations to visit. There are two dimensions to the answer I will give. One is obviously the invitation I received yesterday from the President of Israel and I hope will be arranged sometime soon. And we definitely give you enough warning of plans when it does happen. The other relation to visit to the holy sites in Jerusalem. That is something not yet materialized in terms of specific dates but I’ve said in the past and I’ll repeat again that it is my right as a Hashemite Muslim Jordanian Arab to visit these holy places and I hope I will be able to do so before too long. Thank you very much.
Q: The contrast in the two tracks is so sharp. We were in Syria yesterday, we are here today. Totally different pictures. Do you have a message for President Assad you will share with us?
KING HUSSEIN: I hope that what I know for a fact will translate itself into reality in terms of the encouragement of all concerned to move ahead towards a comprehensive peace, and I know that President Assad need to move towards an objective and has made that commitment. It is our hope that we will see progress on all tracks leading to the comprehensive peace we see.
Q: After what we have seen today, on the formation of a joint committee on land and border, when are you going to redeploy the Israeli forces on the Jordanian border?
PM RABIN: Allow me to remind you that after Gaza-Jericho first, what was agreed on in the Cairo Agreement is early empowerment and elections. In preparation to the elections there will be a redeployment, not withdrawal, redeployment. We are today, even, in continuation of negotiations of the early empowerment. The Palestinians have not yet started, right till today, bringing to us their ideas about elections. We are not the party that prevents beginning of negotiations about elections. But allow me to remind you, redeployment doesn’t stand on itself and its redeployment, not withdrawal.
PM RABIN: There is no need for redeployment, there are no redeployments.
Q: So that we know where the borders are.
PM RABIN: This is a different story. We have agreed that there is tomorrow a beginning of serious negotiations. First in the tent, later with such complicated items in the Dead Sea Company hotel. Negotiations will start and we’ll the utmost to reach agreement about this issues and other issues. As soon as an agreement will be reached, allow me to remind you, that the border between the British Mandate Palestine and the Kingdom of Jordan has never been marked. It has to be done in a very careful, accurate way based on maps, all kinds of agreements of the past, and the work will be done. We made a major decision that we are going to tackle and to solve this issue.
Q: Will you be willing sir, to consider facilitating a rapprochement, or even a meeting between the Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq?
KING HUSSEIN: I’m not aware of it.
PM RABIN: To make it clear, I’ve never asked for such a meeting.
Q: When will you open the border for all Israelis?
KING HUSSEIN: I hope before long sir. Which means more or less before long. I can’t say, but I hope that our efforts will be rewarded with success and we will solve all the problems. And we are already covered a lot of ground.
Q: On the situation on the Arab world as a whole. You are quite aware sir, that many countries in this part of the world are bogged down in situations of political conflict and instability in general. Jordan offers a different example, an example of human rights, democracy, pluralism. Don’t you think, Mr. Secretary that this example should be emulated and encouraged in the region as a whole.
MR. CHRISTOPHER: I believe there are great opportunities for the region as a whole growing out of the dramatic events of last September and then the dramatic events of two weeks ago. The landscape is really being transformed in the Middle East, major changes are underway, pioneered by the two gentlemen on my right. I think the effect of that will ripple throughout the region. The U.S. will have as its purpose to try to extend the precedent reflected by the events of two weeks ago and also to extend the precedent with respect the search for democracy and human rights which is reflected in the conduct of both the Israeli government and the Jordanian government.
Q: People in Jordan wait to see concrete Israeli and American steps in the same direction and part of world peace. I’m speaking about bilateral and multi-regional economic projects in the valley, in the potash, in phosphate, in other projects we have here.
PM RABIN: We are in the process of negotiations of having a joint plan for various bilateral economic, regional development. At the same time, I believe that there is possibility to do many things on bilateral areas in terms of trade, tourism etc. But we have to discuss, to agree about it, before they will be able to be carried out.
MR. CHRISTOPHER: Debt release for Jordan is proceeding through our Congress at an unusually rapid pace. President Clinton, has written to the Paris Club a couple of days ago recommending debt relief for Jordan. In addition to that we have other legislation which is pending in Congress with respect to the access defense articles which is a reflection of the new environment here in the Middle East. The U.S. is doing its part and will continue to do its part. Under the trilateral meeting which will take place in September as well as our involvement in the leadership role in the Casablanca conference in late October.
Q: [About Fundamental Islam]
KING HUSSEIN: We are a democracy as you know. But we don’t have any activities which are illegal. And as far another subject, that of terrorism, we are against in every form, everywhere.
Q: [About the prisoners]
PM RABIN: Well, as you know, we have released over four thousand Palestinian prisoners. We offered to members of what we call the the rejectionists, (their headquarters are in Syria) if they will sign a paper in which they say we support the peace, we are committed to refrain from terror and violence. Several hundred refused to sign. If they refuse to sign, we can not reduce whatever their sentence holds. As far as those who belong to the terror groups who declared that they will continue to carry out terror activities against Israelis and against Palestinians. In the last month, more Palestinians were killed by Palestinians than Israelis by Palestinians.
Q: What can you tell us about progress between Israel and Syria?
MR. CHRISTOPHER: During this trip I had a good meeting with Prime Minister Rabin, not long after I arrived on Saturday night, and yesterday I met for five hours with President Assad in Damascus. I would say that we are laying the groundwork for progress on that very important track. Both of my meetings were constructive. We have a great distance to go there. But the parties are very serious about the matter and I think these meetings in the region on this trip have begun to lay the groundwork for progress for peace.