Jordan's King Abdullah II Wednesday, April 11, called on the West to invest in the developing countries of the Middle East, promoting peace and economic development through a plan modeled after the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II.
The king appealed to his country's "friends here in the United States" to help the countries of the region achieve peace, stability and economic success. "Invest in us," he said in a speech at the National Press Club. "I'm not talking about aid or assistance. I'm talking about supporting young countries that understand the message of the way of the world is going, the globalization of the economies."
He said the West should support Middle Eastern efforts "to globalize their economies, to move in the right direction, to increase social freedoms, to be able to give education — a tool to everybody to be able to better their lives. You made it work in Europe," said the 39-year-old king, who assumed the throne February 7, 1999. "I was wondering, could that be possible in our part of the world?"
”Invest in us in support and in spirit, because there are a lot people looking at what is happening in Jordan, what I hope is going to happen in Syria, what's happening in Morocco, what's happening in Bahrain," the king said. "Invest in us to be successful. If we succeed, then many people will say the grass is greener on the other side," and strive for development as well.
The king met Tuesday with US President George W. Bush to discuss the Middle East peace process, economic development and trade. He said he believed the United States had taken a "mature" position on peace in the Middle East.
He said a characterization of the US position as hands-off was "unfair," calling it instead "a more behind-the-scenes attitude." But, he said, "I hope we can get both sides to sit down together; then America will take maybe more of an overt presence when it comes to the peace process."
King Abdullah said it would be a mistake to say the peace process has ended despite escalating violence in the region and the departure of the administrations of Bill Clinton and former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak.
He said there was a perception that "OK, none of the players are around any more," which he said is a mistake. "This is a process that has taken many, many years," he said. "Both sides came very, very, very close. Once we can get the violence down, once we can get both people to sit down around the table and negotiate, let's go back to the closest that they ever got and build from there."
King Abdullah is pushing for a free-trade agreement between the United States and Jordan, and said he was encouraged by meetings with Bush and congressional leaders on the issue.
"I think the chance for a FTA with the United States is very good," he said. "Both Republicans and Democrats were very sincere and very warm in their reception to have an FTA move as quickly as possible." — (AFP, Washington)
by Magan Crane
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)