State visit from Jordan
Your Royal Highnesses,
It is indeed a great pleasure for the Queen and myself to welcome Your Majesties, your family members and your delegation on the first Jordanian State visit ever to this country.
You represent a country blessed with extraordinary qualities. Few Norwegians have had the opportunity to visit Jordan. My own visit last year, however sad the occasion, gave me a welcome glimpse of what had until then only been described to me as the uniqueness of Jordan and the warmth of its people.
In the minds of my countrymen Jordan stands out with characteristic pictures of desert Bedouins; we have the romantic notion of nomadic shepherds; we have all heard of Petra, combining the historic richness and magical natural scenery; and we recall the ancient Bible stories told us as children. Evidence of Jordan's past history is truly a source of fascination.
Since the dawn of civilisation, Jordan's geography has given the country an important role to play as a conduit for trade and communications, connecting east and west, north and south. Jordan continues to play this role even today.
A year ago in Jordan we mourned the loss of a great world leader. Through his vision, his determination and his courage, King Hussein won the respect and admiration of the entire world. He stood out as a man who wished to secure democracy, political pluralism and human rights for his nation. He built regional friendship and partnerships and forged peace with Israel. He left us all with an impressive legacy of mutual respect and tolerance. The sight of King Hussein, Yassar Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin, shaking hands on the lawn of The White House, was, perhaps, one lasting memory we shall keep from the last decade of the 20th century.
You are actively pursuing the same goals of political stability, economic reform and the rule of law. With true Hashemite concern for your people, you are giving priority to your countrys economic development and growth. At the same time, you are clearly determined to preserve and cultivate your rich religious and cultural heritage to which the world owes so much.
Jordan lies at the crossroads between Asia, Africa and Europe, in the cradle of the three monotheistic religions. History has shown your country the importance of regional stability and tolerance. Jordan is also situated at the crossroads between conflict and peace. The region will need your statesmanship and your country to serve as a bridge of peace and confidence between nations and peoples. Difficult questions in the Middle East Peace Process await answers. Bold and courageous decisions will have to be made. This will require compromise and the good will of all the parties concerned.
Jordan is playing an increasingly significant part in this process. Norway has offered to lend a helping hand if the parties so wish. This, I believe, has brought our two countries closer together in pursuit of common goals and ideas.
You have brought your country to the forefront both in the Arab world and among Western countries. Both Jordan and Norway have been contributing to UN peacekeeping forces for years. Your engagement bears witness to Jordans genuine concern for peace and stability both within and outside your own area, highlighted by Jordanian involvement in Kosovo, and the visits you and Queen Rania have made to that troubled region.
At the dawn of this new century, we see a world marked by increasing interdependence, presenting us with serious challenges and great opportunities. You draw from the strength that you are part of a new and dynamic generation of leaders taking on the task of bringing their countries fully into the global economy.
In a recent speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos, you stated that «For the young generation of Jordan, the future holds the promise and the promise is the future». You have shown a solid commitment to reforming and building a stronger Jordanian economy, thus strengthening its ability to play a positive role in the region. By wisely capitalising on your competitive advantage in human resources, modern infrastructure and service orientation, a well-educated young generation of Jordanians stand ready to exploit the gains made by modern technology.
Norway is drawing on some of our own competitive advantages and fields of expertise to work with you in your endeavours. I need only mention social science research, the water sector and the ambitious mine-clearing programme. The excellent relations between our two countries, give us good opportunities to work closer together and to continue to develop our cooperation and friendship.
We look forward to showing you more of Norway over the next couple of days and to strengthening the bonds between our families and our two countries.
Let me end by saying how delighted we are to have Your Majesties King Abdullah II and Queen Rania here today. You have many friends in Norway, some of them invited here tonight, many more waiting to meet you over the next few days.
I would like to ask you all to join me in a toast to Their Majesties King Abdullah II and Queen Rania, the Hashemite family, the people of Jordan and to the excellent relations between our two countries.