leftspace.gif (58 bytes)  

This press conference was held during a visit to the Kingdom by President Flavio Cotti of the Swiss Federation. Besides commenting on the excellent state of bilateral relations between the two states, King Hussein and President Cotti speak on the need to continue efforts towards a comprehensive regional peace, and the two countries’ common desire to work for the promotion and protection of human rights. His Majesty notes recent contradictory statements issued by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in which, on one hand, he says that peace must be between governments and not people, and then later says that peace between governments is just pieces of paper without meaning. King Hussein makes the point that true security will never materialize without peace occurring between the peoples of the region.


Press Conference

His Majesty King Hussein and

Swiss President Flavio Cotti



May 16, 1998


King Hussein: It is a very great pleasure for me, for the government, and for the people of Jordan to welcome a dear friend, the President of Switzerland, to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Our regret is that it is a very short visit, but nonetheless the source of pride is great and the fact that we are friends and have been over a long period of time and that our relations are based on mutual respect and frankness and candor. And I think that we have found that our views and our ideas are almost identical regarding the critical moment through which this region passes—hopefully, towards a real vigorous resumption of peace efforts on the bases that these efforts started on in Madrid—242, 338, land for peace, the Oslo Agreement and every other agreement that has followed, and the strict implementation of these agreements.

But beyond that, and that is my feeling, I think the position is the same regarding the need to work on the human level—to improve the conditions of people, to improve the quality of life, to give hope and encouragement for those who are committed to a better future for this region and all its people. To give them a vision of what the future is and can be.

And on the bilateral level, we have no problems whatsoever. We are old friends. Our relationship is one of which we are very very proud, and the president was kind enough to suggest that he asked his colleagues to see if there were any shadows regarding these relations, and they could not find any. And neither can we. So, Ahlan wa Sahlan, and you're most welcome, and our only hope is that this visit can be followed by another in the near future. And a very hearty welcome to you sir, and to all your colleagues, and to your friends who have accompanied you. Thank you very much sir.

President Cotti: You are not alone, Majesty, for regretting the short time for this visit, but if I may say, we gave today a demonstration that even during a short time if it's possible to make a substantial job. And I would like to thank you on behalf of the Swiss delegation very very much for your hospitality and for the very deep in contents communication you gave us firstly concerning the general situation of the peace process in the region. We understand your realistic, and in the short term quite pessimistic, view of the situation. You mention that there are no clouds in the relationship of both countries, and you are absolutely right. And you mentioned that we share fundamental common values like the elements of the human rights, which in this conflict region becomes more and more of great importance. I thank Jordan very very warmly for the support it gave to Switzerland some years ago when the so-called Montreaux mandate was given to my country for trying to help improve human rights in the region.

Of course, the situation of the peace process—specifically, on the multilateral way—has in this moment reduced the operational possibilities in this sector. But we agreed that in the next time, Jordan and Switzerland should intensify their dialogue for trying to find out in this very close situation some ways for even increasing the commitment in this sector of human rights.

Very important was also the discussion about the economical evolution, and we absolutely agreed that a correct economical frame seems to be one of the fundamental conditions also for other values, like, as I mentioned, human rights and peace. I am very grateful, Your Majesty, for the substantial discussion you allowed us to have.

King Hussein: Thank you.

Unnamed Journalist: (unintelligible), Swiss Television. Your Majesty, after the last events, don't you think that the peace process is already collapsed and there is nothing you can do to have anticipation in the political terms?

King Hussein: We had a very substantial discussion over the situation and the gravity of the situation. And, although I am rapidly disturbed at this point in time regarding the peace process as a whole, I believe that it is coming into focus in such a way that I hope we can see the beginning of some real progress towards resolving all the problems that are long overdue, and moving ahead particularly on the Palestinian-Israeli dimension.

As you know, the discussions are ongoing. There is an American proposal. The United States was invited as a partner in making peace. I have always maintained that the United States was not and could not be regarded only as a messenger, but has the right to offer ideas and thoughts, particularly when they are consistent with previous agreements. And our Palestinian brethren have accepted these ideas and these thoughts fully. There is a problem now with the Israeli government apparently. And I have been rather puzzled over the recent past by contradictory statements by the Israeli Prime Minister, such as in one interview he (Netanyahu) is suggesting that peace should be between governments and not people. I have never heard of any peace that is meaningful that is not between people as well, and I have always believed that peace should be a peace that is people to people in addition to government involvement and endorsement of whatever they achieve. I think his idea was that if it is just governments, then they could arrange things in a way. Yet he contradicts himself in a later statement by saying that peace between governments is just pieces of paper that have no meaning, and that security is the essential part. Well, I believe that without peace, and without the overwhelming majority of people who believe in peace—defending it, working for it, believing in it—security can never really be a reality in our lives.

And speaking of security, I think that we have extremists from both sides that have tried to force their agenda on this area, and on this region, and it is about time that they were made unable to continue in this way. So we will wait and see how things develop, but I hope we will move away from Israel being moved into a fortress and Israelis being forced to be living in a fortress, with a fortress mentality, towards opening up to the area—particularly to our Palestinian brethren—and to all of us, so that we can have further building blocks leading to the comprehensive peace we seek.

Unnamed Journalist: (unintelligible, Al-Arab al-Youm newspaper): President Cotti, when are you going to carry out your active role in the peace process in the region?

President Cotti: I wouldn’t avoid for stressing the limited possibilities of a small country like Switzerland. We know that other countries and other international organizations are committed in this sense. I believe our central task in the next time will be: firstly, to continue—as we mentioned also yesterday, meeting President Arafat—our support, even financial support for the developing of the region, and in the same time to try to take any occasion for strengthening the efforts in the human rights situation, although I repeat frankly that conditions still are quite less favorable in this case.

King Hussein: Let me add to this. I think that our friends in Switzerland have done so much. They have hosted so many meetings and they are continuing to do whatever they can to help on the human level. Unfortunately, some of their efforts have not come to the point of success, including what developed out of (unintelligible) in terms of the question of the rights of children. Even that was unfortunately not possible. But we are determined revive these efforts, and we are determined to continue to invest in the future by investing in better conditions for people, and people are the important thing—the element that is our main concern.

Afanah: (Suzanne Afanah, Jordan Television): President Cotti, Switzerland has long maintained a neutral stance as far as foreign politics is concerned, yet you find yourself making your Middle East tour at a critical time. Do you feel frustrated by Jewish pressure on Switzerland? And Your Majesty, your views on the latest escalation of violence in the West Bank marking the fifty year anniversary of the Nakbah?

President Cotti: Well, I would say a fundamental task of the Swiss government in this moment, and of the Swiss parliament, is to make it possible even more clear our position during the Second World War. And we pursue this task with a great determination. Of course, we hope that the general frame for this task, a frame of objectivity without wrong and unacceptable criticism would contribute to this task. In this sense, I believe that we only have to follow the line that we declared two years ago and we absolutely did to continue this way. Concerning our neutrality, as you know we still found our foreign policy on neutrality, but as we try to demonstrate also during this visit, neutrality doesn’t mean closing in on ourselves. Neutrality has to significate an open, very much open as general in the foreign policy and that’s what we are trying to do since now, I would say, since many years.

King Hussein: I believe that it’s very regrettable that violence has occurred. I believe that violence is an expression of despair, and I hope that there will be a reason that will change this attitude sometime soon. Thank you.

Unnamed Journalist: (unintelligible) demands to work as a go-between for the Arabic and Israeli people in the peace process?

President Cotti: I believe there is one way and the way is called dialogue. It is called respect of the convened agreements, and we will try to create even from our presence a positive, favorable climate for this dialogue, and also for this respect I mentioned.

King Hussein: Thank you very very much indeed. It was a very good pleasure to be with you.