|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at the Fourth Annual Middle East North Africa Economic Conference
Doha, Qatar, November 16, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Thank you very much. Your Highness, Excellencies and distinguished guests, I am pleased to address this fourth Middle East North Africa economic conference.
I want to apologize at the outset, however, for my inability to remain through your entire program. For reasons I hope you understand, I have some diplomatic work to do that requires me to travel to other countries in the region later today. This conference is, however, too important to miss. Others in the U.S. delegation will remain and I look forward to a full report on all that is said.
Let me begin my remarks by thanking our remarkable hosts. On behalf of President Clinton, I extend our deepest respect for the efforts that the Emir, the Foreign Minister and all our Qatari friends have made to encourage broad participation in this conference.
Through your courage and understanding of the long-term best interest of this region, you have earned the world's deep respect and you have carried forward the vision of a Middle East overcoming past differences and creating increased prosperity, security and peace for all its people.
I also want to thank each of you whether from the public or the private sector for coming to Doha to bear witness to your own faith in that vision.
Your willingness to explore opportunities for investment and cooperation in this region is evidence that the prophets of division and hate are false prophets and that those willing to travel the path toward peace will have many friends along the way.
The effort to increase regional economic cooperation is not as some seem to feel a favor to any particular nation. Shared prosperity will create a more broadly felt stake in peace and deny nourishment to the violent extremists who feed on deprivation.
Increased commerce and investment will diminish the mistrust that has long divided governments and prevented private sectors from working together for their mutual benefit and that of their societies.
But as we strive to shape a prosperous future through economic cooperation, we must also build a safe future through our continued diplomatic and security cooperation.
When the Gulf War ended six years ago, the world spelled out in United Nations Security Council Resolutions what Iraq had to do to return to the family of nations. Unfortunately for the Iraqi people, instead of meeting these requirements, for six years, Saddam Hussein has lied, delayed, obstructed and tried to deceive.
In recent days, tensions have increased as a result of Iraq's effort to exercise a veto over who may serve on UN inspection teams. In addition, Iraq has tampered with UN cameras, and illegally moved equipment which could be used in the production of prohibited missiles or biological warfare agents.
The UN Security Council has responded firmly and unanimously by condemning Iraqi threats and demanding Iraqi compliance. The Council action shows once again that this is a dispute not between Iraq and the United States, but between Iraq and the law, Iraq and the world.
Let us not forget that Iraq's obligations were set not by the United States, but by the Security Council. UN inspections are carried out not by an organ of the United States, but by UNSCOM, in which almost three dozen countries currently participate.
Iraq's failure to meet its obligations is not the fault of the UN or the United States. It is the fault of Iraq. And the suffering of Iraqi civilians is a direct consequence of this failure.
The United States and the world community want to help the innocent people of Iraq, but the way to do that is for all nations to insist that UN resolutions be met, and that UN inspections be carried out without conditions. That is also the way to protect regional security and ensure peace.
Our resolve on this issue must be unwavering. Hundreds of thousands of coalition soldiers put their lives on the line in the Gulf War. Together, we must and we are doing all we can to achieve a diplomatic solution to the current situation. But we are determined that Iraq not be allowed to regain by stonewalling UN inspectors what is forfeited through its aggression on the battlefield.
And we must and we will ensure that Iraq never again threatens its neighbors or the world with weapons of mass destruction. The importance of standing together whether in support of stability or to build prosperity in this region reflects the nature of our era. In the aftermath of the Cold War and with the advent of the global economy, international relations is not a zero sum game.
Nations will do better and be safer when they find ways to work with each other, and when they heed the eloquent warnings of Anwar Sadat that there can be "no happiness based on the detriment of others."
The annual MENA conferences were initiated with this premise in mind, the premise that we will all benefit when those inside and outside the region are consulting with each other; when public and private sectors are working in partnership; and when the old ways of protectionism, state control and high barriers to investment and trade are re-examined in light of new economic realities.
Partly as a result of these conferences and of the premise that supports them, this region is at last undertaking concrete economic reforms that may transform its future. For example, the Doha Securities market began trading this past May, and our host government has already developed plans to sell shares in state companies to the private sector.
Qatar is also negotiating with foreign firms in the chemical and petroleum sector and has ambitious plans to move forward with a new generation of export-oriented natural gas projects.
In Oman, telecommunications are being privatized, new companies may now have up to 49% foreign ownership and the Muscat securities market is now among the most dynamic in the region.
In Yemen, improved economic policies and enhanced cooperation with the international banks have produced remarkable progress. Tunisia continues to grow at a robust clip, in part because of a well-conceived privatization effort and a new phased-in free trade agreement with the EU.
In addition, more than 100 Israeli firms are now listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Jordan has removed all remaining foreign exchange controls, lifted restrictions on foreign investment and announced the partial privatization of the phone company. And Kuwait has sold equity shares in more than 20 state-owned firms since 1994.
Overall, regional economic growth is up for the second consecutive year. Inflation is under control, fiscal policies are sound and debt loads are manageable.
All this is encouraging, but this region remains far from what it could be. Due to high tariff and non-tariff barriers, only about 7% of all trade in the Middle East is between countries within the region. This compares to 20% intra-regional trade in the Americas, 30% in Asia, and 60% in Europe.
Overall growth continues to be held back by a combination of rapid population growth, lack of diversification, continued state ownership and lingering protectionism. The journey to reform has begun, but there are many, many kilometers still to go.
In the West Bank and Gaza, the economy faces a different obstacle and its condition is dire. Due largely to the impact of security-related closures, economic trends have turned sharply negative.
To counter this trend, the United States continues to participate in, and support, the effort of international donors to assist the West Bank and Gaza. We are working to strengthen security cooperation so that future closures will be less likely. We are encouraging Israel to undertake economic confidence building measures for the Palestinians. And we are helping to develop initiatives such as the Gaza Industrial Estate to promote economic opportunity and growth.
The economic difficulties now faced by the Palestinian Authority are symptomatic of a broader problem which makes this fourth MENA conference different from its predecessors. At the center of the conferences in Casablanca, Amman and Cairo, there was a sense of progress towards peace in the Middle East that was greater than we feel today; a sense of possibility that was expanding; and a sense of partnership that seemed more durable and genuine.
Today, the peace process is in danger. Not because of the people of the region or because they do not desire peace, but because leaders have failed to take the actions required to realize the possibilities of peace.
In September, I came to the Middle East to encourage regional leaders to take significant, concrete steps to end the crisis of confidence in the partnership between Israelis and Palestinians and to restore momentum to the peace process. Subsequent meetings have been held in the region, in New York, in Washington and during the past two days, I have met in London with Prime Minister Netanyahu and in Bern with Chairman Arafat.
These meetings have helped bring the parties back to the negotiating table. We have held serious discussions on the four-part agenda of: security, further redeployments, a "timeout" on settlement activity and other unilateral actions, and accelerated negotiation of permanent status issues. There is still much work to be done, but we were able to identify some openings through which further progress could be made.
Unfortunately, time is not on our side. Every week that goes by without a renewal of serious momentum towards peace creates new opportunities for the enemies of peace, and adds to the discouragement of those on all sides who urgently desire peace.
The United States will continue to play the role of honest broker. Our objective is clear: a comprehensive peace based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, including the principle of land for peace.
There was a time two decades ago when skeptics said that Israel would never make peace with Egypt, but it did. They said Israel would never return land, but in the Sinai, it did. More recently, the doubters said that Israel would never accept the Palestinians as a partner in peace, but it did. And they said Israel would never withdraw forces from Gaza or redeploy forces in the West Bank, but it did.
Today, too, there are skeptics. But with effort, determination and goodwill, those who believe in the promise of peace can once again prove those skeptics wrong.
The Middle East Peace Process is built on the notion of partnership. And it is not a passive process. Let me say bluntly that there will be no peace if the leaders of this region sit on the sidelines and wait for others to take the risks and summon the requisite courage to bring peace about.
Partners have obligations to make their partners stronger, not weaker. To act in the spirit of peace. To take into account the needs and views of others. To focus not on creating, but on removing, obstacles to peace. And to contribute to an atmosphere in which the violent extremes are marginalized and the roots of trust may grow.
Is this difficult? Does it entail risk? Does it require fresh thinking? Yes, yes and yes. But if Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin could achieve peace at Camp David; if Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat could shake hands on the White House lawn; if King Hussein can demonstrate courage in the cause of reconciliation on a daily basis; and if those here at this conference could come together on behalf of this region's future the time has come for all those with a stake in the Middle East to meet their responsibilities.
I am here in Doha, and others from the United States are here, because America keeps its word. It would be very helpful to the peace process if all the leaders of the region would keep the commitments they have made. And there is not a moment to waste. Israelis and Palestinians must be prepared to make decisions soon that will enable us to move forward and reach agreements.
Palestinian leaders must intensify cooperation on security issues and speak more consistently the language of peace. Israeli leaders must meet their responsibilities by taking steps to restore Palestinian and Arab confidence in their commitment to implementing Oslo. Both sides must work to re-establish their partnership, refrain from steps that make peace more difficult and look ahead with urgency to what a mutually acceptable outcome of the negotiating process might be.
At the same time, Arab states must meet their responsibility to help the friends and oppose the enemies of peace. They must scrap the barriers that exist between their countries and Israel, the Palestinians' partner in peace. And they must join those represented here in sustaining the trend towards regional integration, economic reform and mutual growth.
The new tragedies experienced this past summer in Jerusalem and in southern Lebanon were part of a cycle of violence as barren as the driest desert sand. The path of violence is fertile only in the production of more hate, more death, more sorrow and more parents burying their children. This is not the future the people of this region deserve, nor I am convinced a future they will accept.
I believe that the alternative vision of a future characterized by peace, open borders, open minds and open markets is a vision widely shared. It is not restricted to the Israelis, or Palestinians, or the Arabs of any particular state or group of states. And it is not restricted to those represented here in Doha.
The Middle East peace process has survived multiple traumas and setbacks. Still, it has survived. The reason is that the majority of the people of the region, Israelis, Arabs and Palestinians, have come to believe that the status quo is unacceptable, that the costs of conflict are too high, and that the effort to achieve peace holds at least the promise of a better future.
They understand that, without peace, their societies will remain shackled by the pre-occupations of the past; their region will fall further behind in the global marketplace; and their children will grow up in an environment of uncertainty, danger and fear.
The American diplomat Ralph Bunche, who was involved in Arab-Israeli negotiations decades ago, once said: "I have a bias against war; a bias for peace. I have a bias which leads me to believe in the essential goodness of my fellow man; which leads me to believe no problem in human relations is ever insoluble. I have a bias in favor of Arabs and Jews in the sense that I believe both are good, honorable and essentially peace-loving peoples and are therefore as capable of making peace as of waging war."
These are the words with which I want to leave you, because they capture my feelings exactly. That we must still repeat them long after they were spoken is an unhappy fact. That we still do repeat them, that they still ring true today, is a more important fact.
As we approach the new century, there are no longer Cold War divisions fueling rivalry in the Middle East. The road to prosperity has been identified through the spirit of cooperation that has characterized these MENA conferences. And the way to peace once obscure has been laid out first at Madrid, then more clearly at Oslo and in the agreements since.
The United States cannot choose the future for the peoples of this region. That is their choice and their challenge. We do not underestimate the difficulties. We recognize the dangers. But America was built on optimism and on faith that the future can be made better than the past.
That faith will not be vindicated by any single event or any single conference, but through the actions and choices made day by day, year by year, by government officials and business people, educators and religious leaders, parents and young people in cities and villages across the region.
For your attendance at this conference, I salute you. For your faith in our shared vision of the future, I admire you. And for your support in the weeks and months to come -- which we will need -- I thank you very much.
[End of Document]
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