|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
His Majesty Abdullah II, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Press Availability Following Their Meeting
Washington, D.C., May 17, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good morning. I am very pleased to welcome Abdullah bin al Hussein on his first official visit to the United States as King of the Royal Hashemite Kingdom.
Jordan is a key ally and partner in the Middle East, and a nation of vital importance to the future security and prosperity of the region.
This morning, we discussed the King's efforts to improve the economic prospects of his people. We reviewed the status of initiatives to increase opportunities for trade and investment, and Jordan's need for bilateral debt forgiveness and debt rescheduling at the Paris Club.
I assured His Majesty of America's ongoing commitment to help bring greater economic opportunity to Jordan. We support economic reforms; we have a robust program of bilateral assistance; we are supplying wheat to help Jordanians through the current drought; and we are helping to rehabilitate Jordan's water distribution system.
We also discussed international issues, including the King's effort to reinvigorate ties with Jordan's neighbors in the Gulf, and his commitment to continue Jordan's vigorous support for the Middle East peace process. The United States will stay in very close touch with Jordan as we work with the Israelis and Palestinians to launch permanent status talks and pursue a comprehensive peace.
I also made it clear that Jordan's humanitarian contributions in the Balkans are greatly appreciated. Queen Rania recently accompanied a shipment of supplies to the region, and Jordanian doctors and nurses are at work there now, easing the plight of refugees. And we had a very good discussion of our aims in Kosovo.
Back in February, President Clinton requested a supplemental assistance appropriation for Jordan of $100 million, in addition to the $225 million in economic and security assistance that had already been allocated. We hope final action will be taken on that request this week.
Finally, I affirmed to His Majesty America's deep and enduring friendship for the people of Jordan. That friendship blossomed and grew during the reign of King Hussein, whose memory we will never cease to honor. I have no doubt that our relations will deepen further and that our partnership with Jordan under King Abdullah will continue to pay rich dividends for both countries.
KING ABDULLAH: Thank you very much, Madame Secretary. I'm particularly delighted, on behalf of myself and our delegation, for the very warm reception we received this morning, and the very fruitful discussions that we've had in the past hour. And I'm very happy to see that on all points we see eye to eye.
Obviously, we're very concerned on what is unfolding in Kosovo, and we are very, very supportive of the United States' commitment and that of NATO. We will do our utmost that we can politically to support you in these issues. As you've mentioned, we are there on the humanitarian side, but we must shoulder responsibilities and stand side-by-side with our American colleagues. And we'll do whatever we can to stand by you on those issues.
Obviously, we're fully committed to the peace process, and again we've had some very interesting discussions in that arena. Jordan has always had a commitment to move the process forward and to stand by our friends in Israel and the Palestinians. We are committed to a bright future and the legacy that His Majesty had left us. We will do our utmost to move forward in that arena.
We are very, very grateful to the support that the United States has provided to Jordan economically over the past several years. And, again, with the tragic loss of his Majesty, the United States stepped forward to assist us through this very difficult time. So we're very, very appreciative of that sort of support, and we'll do our utmost to move the Jordanian economy in the right direction so that we can get ourselves on our own two feet and be able to shoulder the responsibilities that we must provide to a stable and peaceful region.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, unless all the forecasts are wrong, Israel is about to elect a more accommodating government, one more inclined to give up land, possibly even recognize a Palestinian State. Is that something that pleases you and your peace team?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, let me say that we're obviously always inspired by a democratic process that takes place in any country, and pleased that the election process is going forward in Israel. The polls are still open, and so I will not comment on any part of it. But let me just say that we continue to be dedicated to the implementation of the Wye process, to the resumption of permanent status negotiations on an accelerated basis, and we want to see a comprehensive peace process go forward; which means that not only in addition to the Palestinian track, that there be an invigorated Syrian and Lebanese track also.
As His Majesty said, we spoke at some length about the importance of pursuing the peace process.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, (inaudible) Jordan's economy. What practical steps can the US make now to push G-7 countries to forgive Jordan's debt? And Your Majesty, I'd like to ask you, what role will Jordan play in pushing forward the peace process after the Israeli elections on all tracks, including the Syrian track?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that His Majesty and I spoke about the importance of moving forward on economic reforms, on a good relationship with the IMF, on the importance of us providing the supplemental assistance that we spoke about. In addition to that, we spoke about the importance of debt forgiveness -- a subject that the President has raised with his G-7 colleagues, and will continue to do so, because we consider it very important to go forward with debt forgiveness.
The importance of the Jordanian economy -- not only to Jordan, but to the region -- is also of major importance to us. So it is something that is very high on our agenda that we will pursue through all the available fora. We're very glad that our own Congress is coming through with a supplemental, and we will continue to pursue to make sure that others also work on the debt forgiveness.
KING ABDULLAH: And ma'am, as I said, we're fully committed to support the peace process. And after the elections, we will, as always, be there to support the Israelis and the Palestinians to move forward. But I think that we must point out that the core issue is the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, and that is what needs to be moved in the right direction. Jordan will always be there to stand by our colleagues to make sure that stability and peace is realized in our region.
QUESTION: Your Highness, I am wondering whether as far as Iran is concerned, whether you think the West -- particularly the United States -- is moving quickly enough to capitalize on some degree of reform there?
KING ABDULLAH: I think there are some very interesting and wonderful changes in Iran and Iran is having its presence felt on international arena, and we keep our fingers crossed that the momentum continues.
QUESTION: Membership in WTO is vital for Jordan, but it's very, very costly upon industry and services. Would your country accept, let's say, giving Jordan a matter of, let's say, five or three years -- a grace period -- in order to facilitate Jordan to get into the WTO and not pay a very high price?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we obviously would like to see Jordan be a part of WTO; but always, we believe it is important for the terms under which any country comes in to be the kind that are viable. It is important that some progress be made on intellectual property rights and a whole host of issues. But we believe that the integrity of the WTO is also important, in terms of the terms that are required for accession.
KING ABDULLAH: And if I may add, ma'am, I think that we need to move as quickly as possible to be part of the WTO. If you're talking about a high price, the high price Jordan will pay in the future if we don't move fast enough.
QUESTION: Jordan is the only country standing (inaudible) by sanctions and yet it is the only country subjected (inaudible) which is humiliating, in fact, to the people of Jordan. So until when that will continue, unnecessarily, of course? On the other hand, the American determination to have the refugees go back to Kosovo safely -- is it applicable also to the Palestinian refugees in the Middle East?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, on Iraq, we believe that it's very important to maintain the sanctions on Iraq because we are concerned about what actions Saddam Hussein is always involved in. We have obviously been concerned about the people of Iraq, and are trying to develop -- continue with the oil-for-food program. I think that it is essential that the Iraq regimes be maintained.
On Kosovo, I think, again, we are working on -- you linked two issues here. Obviously, we are concerned about the refugees going back to Kosovo. The question about Palestinians is all part of the overall peace process that we all would like to see reinvigorated.
[End of Document]