King Abdullah: We have a chance to end the Middle East conflict

From an address given by the King of Jordan to the Houses of Parliament, in London
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The Independent Online

I understand that I am the first head of state from the Arab Middle East to address members of Parliament here. I am humbled by that fact. But I see it as a recognition, not of myself, but of our two nations' long friendship. My late father, His Majesty King Hussein, led the way as a peace-maker and voice of moderation in the Middle East. I am delighted to see so many of his friends here today.

Like my father, I have personal reasons to hold your country in great regard. I lived for a number of years in Britain, including a spell at school in Surrey and later military training at Sandhurst, and an attachment to the British Army, as well as academic tuition at Oxford.

It was during my school days here that I learned some of life's enduring truths – like any food given a nickname by generations of students is best avoided. And at Sandhurst, I learned the three commandments for every young officer who hopes to succeed: listen to your sergeants, listen to your sergeants, and listen to your sergeants! Every one of these lessons has proved valuable in later life.

The events of 11 September have changed the world. My goals and your goals, peace and well-being for our peoples, are still the same. But the route we must travel to reach them must take account of new dangers on the road.

We now know how terrible the toll of the 11 September attack was, not just for America, but for all of civilisation. Jordanians died and, as you know, over one hundred Britons, and along with you Jordanian families watched, glued to their television screens, in horror and grief. We know that the terrorists' real aim was not only physical destruction. They wanted to undermine and destroy the confidence, the close ties and the security of people around the world.

In fact, in an era when we hear so much about technology instead of people, the events of 11 September remind us that people are the original interactive Web. When people can't travel or educate their children or work in safety, civilised society comes to a halt. If terrorists can undermine the confidence in a secure future, economies cannot develop and grow. If murderers can do evil and avoid justice, despair and cynicism flourish.

That is the aim of the terrorists. It is up to us to see that this target is one they miss. I believe we start by being clear about where we stand. The events of 11 September were an affront to all humanity. That is the view of the too-rarely heard Arab majority.

So let me speak for my people. As a human being, as a father, as a Jordanian, and most of all as a Muslim, what happened that day was evil. As human beings we condemn that attack absolutely, and as a civilised nation Jordan stands shoulder to shoulder with the world community in the fight.

There is now a unique opportunity to forge a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The need to act quickly is urgent. For far too long, terrorists have used violence, fear and community division to spread their lies and influence. Our goal must be a just and comprehensive resolution, with the state of Palestine and the state of Israel co-existing side by side. I call on Israel to adhere to the international recognition of the Palestinians' right to a viable independent Palestinian state, based on the United Nations security council resolutions 242 and 338, and I endorse Prime Minister Blair's call for the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. I also welcome President Bush's support.

Thanks to the work begun by my late father, Jordan will continue to play a central role in achieving a peaceful settlement. We are uniquely able to serve as a bridge to span the bitter divisions. Jordan has a peace treaty with Israel. We recognise Israel's right to exist and we wish its people stability, safety and prosperity.

But the Palestinian people have rights too and they include the right to statehood, because without that and without Israel's withdrawal from all occupied Arab territory, there will never be a just and lasting resolution to the conflict in our region. I believe it will happen. And my personal pledge is to work tirelessly to see that it does.

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