|A Golden Opportunity to Come Together |
A Golden Opportunity to Come Together
Edited Transcript of a doorstep interview with British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and King Abdullah of Jordan, 10 Downing Street, London, Thursday, 8 November 2001. Source: FCO, London.
Mr Blair: Can I extend a very warm welcome to His Majesty King Abdullah of Jordan, in coming to Downing Street, and say how honoured we are to have him here. I would also like to thank him, first of all, for the strength of his leadership and his determination to make sure that those who engage in international terrorism should not succeed. He is a very powerful and respected member of that coalition against terrorism.
We have had a set of detailed discussions, which included the situation in Afghanistan and the military campaign there. We discussed, of course, the need to make sure that we do everything we possibly can to put the best humanitarian effort into dealing with the problems of displaced people and refugees in Afghanistan. We also discussed how we could help reconstruct Afghanistan in the future after the conflict ends. Our quarrel has never been with the people in Afghanistan, but with the Taliban regime that shelters the Al Qa’ida terrorist network. We have of course also discussed the importance we both attach to progress in the Middle East Peace Process, and King Abdullah obviously has a very long, distinguished and powerful record of pushing for progress in that area. Following my discussions with President Bush last night, I was able to talk with him about the shared determination that there is to see if it is possible to move this process forward and I believe that is a vital part of making sure that out of the terrible events of 11 September, some good comes.
So, Your Majesty, I am delighted to see you here and really honoured to receive you. Thank you once again for coming and thank you for your strength and support.
King Abdullah: Thank you Mr Prime Minister. Obviously it is always a great pleasure to have the opportunity to speak with you and to exchange views on all the challenges that face us, not only for Jordan and Britain, but for the world in general. I am always pleased that in discussions with you, Sir, and your Government, we see eye to eye on all the issues. Particularly, we have been very proud of your efforts; in your travels throughout the Middle East and the Islamic world to clarify the West’s position, that this is not a struggle between the West and Islam. In particular, that what we are facing is, unfortunately, those that have hijacked Islam for their own destructive ends. This is a battle not between moderate Muslims and extremist Muslims, because there is no such thing as moderate Muslims. There is Islam and there are the extremists that have hijacked this religion. The West and the East have this golden opportunity to come together, to really set a new standard in the world and a bright and hopeful future.
We are obviously pleased with the co-ordination that we are having with Britain on crises closer to home and pursuant I hope, after the evidence of September, of the importance of moving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process along as quickly as possible, so that we can bring down the level of tension in our part of the world and have the opportunity, once and for all, to have a stable and peaceful future.
So again, Sir, I thank you very much for the opportunity to see you and I look forward to seeing you in the future. Again, it is always a pleasure, because when it comes to all the issues that we have to discuss, we always see eye to eye on everything. So thank you very much.
Question: The President of Pakistan is saying that continuation of the bombing in Afghanistan during Ramadan would send a negative message to the whole of the Muslim world. Do you agree with that?
King Abdullah: Well, Sir, obviously all of us would like to see the situation in Afghanistan brought to a conclusion sooner rather than later. However, we have to remember that there are specific military objectives that have to be achieved and we all hope that they are achieved as soon as possible. We can’t always have things the way we like it, and as a result we have to remember that the main aims are the military objectives, and we just hope and pray that they are achieved as quickly as possible.
Prime Minister: I agree entirely with what His Majesty has just said.
Question: Mr Prime Minister, for the last few weeks you have been calling for the establishment of a viable Palestinian State. What exactly do you mean by a viable Palestinian State?
Prime Minister: I think the two things that everybody recognises, who is of a reasonable mind, when analysing the problems of the Middle East Peace Process, is that the State of Israel is not going to disappear and neither are the Palestinian people going to disappear. So they are going to have to live side by side together in a viable state where people have the opportunity to be partners in the region – equal partners in the region – in building the region’s future, and its prosperity. Now, I think if people were to accept those two basic principles, then everything else, if you like, is something – and there are very difficult issues for negotiation – but there are things that can be negotiated. I think that we would make a lot of progress in the Middle East if people could accept those two basic, fixed points: that the State of Israel will exist and should be confident of its existence and able to be secure within its own borders, and the Palestinian people should have their own state in which their rights can be properly safeguarded, and in which there is justice and equality and a sense of partnership in the region. Because in the end, what has this conflict done? It has caused deep poverty, it has caused much injustice and it has caused two groups of people, who in the end will have to live side by side together, to be in conflict with each other. So I hope very much that we can do what we can in these coming days and weeks to put this process back on track again. In the end there is no alternative. We can go through another cycle of bloodshed and years of people killing each other, but they will come back, I think, to those two basic principles.
Question: Yesterday you came back from a meeting with the US President, George Bush, and you said clearly that the war on terror would not be resolved without a resolution in the Middle East crisis. How did the Americans respond to that and what do you think their role should be, especially with regard to Jordan’s role in resolving the crisis?
Prime Minister: I think in relation to the first point, what President Bush and I were both saying was that of course you can’t make the pursuit of closing down the terrorist network in Afghanistan conditional in some sense on the Middle East Peace Process. However, on the other hand, we do want to see progress there, and we recognise that the absence of progress is the context in which much of the Arab and Muslim world views the whole international crisis. So it is important for us to try and bring about a resolution. We of course need to have partners in doing that, and I think the role of Jordan in relation to this is obviously important, in part, due to its position and in part because of the respect in which His Majesty is held. Jordan will, I am sure, play its part in trying to help bring about this process. What I believe we need to do is to take the minimum steps to try and calm this situation and gain some albeit small amount of trust building on either side, so that we can then find the room in which a process can move again. It has to happen. I’ve got no doubt about it, and I think there are some, again albeit small, signs of hope, but we have to build on them and do it quickly.