Interview with His Excellency Mr Nasser Judeh, Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

It is not often that you meet a Minister of Foreign Affairs who has a fan page on Facebook, but this is the case of His Excellency Mr Nasser Judeh. He is extremely popular among his compatriots and the reason is that not only is he dynamic and clever, but also a man who represents a new generation of officials in the Middle East ––those who are there to make a difference to their country. As he says himself: “I’m a Jordanian who is proud of my country”.
Despite his very busy schedule, His Excellency took the time to receive us and to answer our questions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Amman.
Q: First of all your Excellency, thank you so much taking time in your busy schedule to receive us. Could tell us who you are?
My name is Nasser Judeh. I’m the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. I have been Foreign Minister since February 2009. Before that I had also been a member of the Cabinet as Minister of State for Media and Communication. Earlier, I was the official spokesperson for the Government, and before that I worked for a very brief period in the private sector.
My career has always been in the Government. Back in 1998 I was Minister of Information, and before that I was Director-General of the Radio and Television Corporation, which is the Jordanian National Broadcasting Company. I had been head of the Jordan Information Bureau in London for two years. I set it up and oversaw it. I had already worked for eight years at the Royal Palace with His Majesty the late King Hussein, and then with the Crown Prince. I was educated in the United States at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., having been at public school in England for a few years, while my elementary education had taken place here in Jordan. I was born in Amman and I’m proud to be a Jordanian serving his king and country.
Q: Your country is a peaceful haven among “troubled neighbours” What are the priorities of Jordanian foreign policy?
Regardless of the turbulence we have in the region, we are a country that is blessed with an enlightened leadership: His Majesty the King, a leader who is respected worldwide; a leader whose vision and whose dedication to his people is admirable and is a blessing from the Almighty.
Jordan is a dynamic, vibrant country and we have invested a lot over the decades in education and in human capital. We do not have natural resources to speak of. Right now, we have discovered large reserves of uranium, and we are pursuing exploration of oil and gas. We have one of the largest reserves where oil can be extracted from the surface of the earth (oil shale), but generally speaking we have built what you see –– this dynamic society –– out of self-reliance with very meagre natural resources.
We always say that our biggest resource is our human capital, and we are very proud of our Jordanian citizens who have contributed to the economies of so many countries in the region.
Our objective is to maintain our achievements and to build on them, and to be a country that fulfils its mission as a hub in this region. Traditionally and historically, Jordan has always been a crossroads of civilizations, and even in this modern day and age Jordan is still at the heart of the Middle East.
Our biggest priority, in order to fulfil the dreams we have for our people, is to see peace, security and stability reign in this region. I think the biggest problem that we have is the Arab-Israeli conflict, at the core which is the Palestinian problem. This is perhaps the driving force behind our mission in foreign policy.
In Jordan, His Majesty the King believes that the Arab-Israeli conflict is a major impediment to progress in the region, to the pursuit of a better life and to the creation of opportunities.
There is a vast potential in this region that remains untapped It has been waiting to be unleashed for so long –– regional co-operation within this region, and regional co-operation with other regions. It has perhaps not been pursued as vigorously as one could have wished, because of the absence of political stability and an atmosphere conducive to such co-operative projects.
A large percentage of Jordanians are young people. His Majesty the King, in a recent TV interview said: “I’m 48 years old and I’m older than 70% of the population of my country.” So this is a young society, a dynamic society, an educated society –– a society with a lot of potential and this is also true, I think, of other societies in the region. So we need to find what brings people together not what divides them.
What we need right now is an atmosphere that would allow these youngsters to pursue their dreams, their objectives and opportunities. With the modern communication tools that they have at their disposal, with so much access to so much information, they see the opportunities that their age groups have in other parts of the world. I think that they want to see political barriers come down in order for them to find better opportunities. So what we need right now is a solution to this chronic problem, the Palestinian problem, the establishment of an independent vibrant Palestinian state on Palestinian soil and comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace that allows us to pursue a better life for everybody.
Q: Do you think that multilateralism is at stake these days?
No, I do not think it’s at stake or at risk, but in many instances in recent history we have seen multilateralism at a standstill in terms of effectiveness, in anticipation of progress on the bilateral level or obstructed by bilateralism. So what we want is a process of complimentarity, where bilateralism can contribute to multilateralism, and multilateralism can certainly enhance the results and objectives of bilateralism.
Q: There are many UN agencies scattered around Amman. Do you envisage putting them all together on the same location?
Yes, there are some discussions about that. We have a resident co-ordinator for all the UN agencies in Jordan, and there are some on-going discussions about having them at the same physical location. We are definitely discussing it.
Q: Where would you like to see Jordan in the area of foreign policy five years from now?
Jordan has a very active foreign policy. His Majesty the King is extremely active on the international stage, his voice is respected and listened to, and his vision on what the Middle East should look like is very astute. He is yearning to see a Middle East free of political strife, conflict and violence. He wants a political process that will lead to economic prosperity in our part of the world. He is also talking about the young and their need for opportunities to pursue their vast potential. He is doing so much to bring the world to Jordan and vice versa.
His Majesty travels extensively around the world and my job as Minister of Foreign Affairs is made easier because, wherever I go, I work with the backdrop of the immense respect shown to His Majesty the King and to Jordan. I always say that Jordan is blessed with its leadership because we have a country that really has no problems with the rest of the world. On the contrary, we have nothing but good relations, good standing and much respect.
Returning to His Majesty’s vision of the Middle East free of conflict, we should ensure that it’s our responsibility to our children, to our children’s children and to future generations to provide them with peace, because peace and stability are what will guarantee economic prosperity. It is only through economic interaction and co-operation that we will consolidate political stability, which in turn will ensure our long-term achievements.
Q: Jordan has always been a host country for refugees. Do you sometimes feel that the world has overlooked all your efforts in this respect?
No, I think there is general acknowledgement and respect and also widespread understanding of what Jordan has done. Jordan is the largest host of Palestinian refugees, but that’s perhaps a result of the contiguity between Jordan and Palestine, and its position at the heart of the Middle East. The peace negotiations will address the refugee issue according to international legitimacy and the Arab Peace Initiative.
We also have hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who are not refugees. They are in Jordan and share us our resources. They are welcome here, but they also have the right to go back to Iraq voluntarily once the political and security situation allows. This is also the reason why we are keen to provide every support that we can to Iraq so as to pursue a political process that will lead to the establishment of a cohesive Iraqi government, representative and all-inclusive.
Again, we are seeking a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. This would mean a peace treaty between Syria and Israel, a peace treaty between Israel and Lebanon, and an independent Palestinian State. His Majesty the King said that, once you have peace in place, an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict and normal relations between Israel and fifty-seven Arab and Muslim countries, the horizon for co-operation is endless. The sky is the limit!
Q: What are your relations with other regions –– with Europe, with Africa? We have excellent relations with everyone! I think we have to do a lot more regarding some of the countries where we do not have diplomatic representation, but we certainly have good relations with countries belonging to different regions.
His Majesty the King visited Latin America in 2008. He went to Brazil, Argentina and Chile and I think he was the first Head of State from this region to visit them. I carried out a follow-up visit this year, and a couple of our ministers visited these same countries. We are now opening relations on all fronts with these countries.
I think we need to do more with Africa. The President of Tanzania paid us a visit earlier in 2010, and we spoke about co-operation between Jordan and Tanzania. We have many points in common. We are a gateway to many markets in our region and the same is true of Tanzania. We believe that we can establish solid links with them.
With the Far East, we are represented through embassies and there are also economic interests. Once again, the sky is the limit!
Q: Finally, when do we expect to see you in Geneva? I hope so, soon …