Speech by Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands on the occasion of the state visit of His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen of Jordan

The Hague, Noordeinde Palace, 30 October 2006

Your Majesty,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you and Queen Rania here this evening. Through you we salute a country with an ancient civilisation that is nevertheless characterised by modernisation and reform, a nation which plays an important, positive role in a Middle East that has for so long been torn by conflict and violence. Tragically, your country too experienced this violence at first hand last year, when brutal attacks took place in Amman. That event also had a profound impact in our country. We are therefore all the more delighted now to be able to greet you both in the Netherlands.

Your Majesty,

Jordan is the custodian of a rich historical heritage. The region known as the 'Fertile Crescent', to which your country belongs, was the birthplace of human civilisation. Over a period of many thousands of years, various cultures left their traces there, from Assyrians and Egyptians to Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans and Arabs. Archaeologists explore the rich legacy of this past, while tourists come in great numbers to admire the unique city of Petra and other impressive historic sites in your country.

Scholarly interest in the Arab world has a long history in our country. Only a few years after the opening of Leiden University in 1575, a chair in Arabic and other Middle Eastern languages was established. That chair is still in existence and the study of the Arab world flourishes at our universities. As early as the seventeenth century, the Dutch painter Cornelis de Bruyn travelled to the Middle East and recorded its historic monuments with remarkable accuracy in his drawings. To this very day, Dutch artists draw inspiration from the age-old treasures of your country.

Founded on the ancient traditions and distinctive cultures of earlier empires, modern Jordan is a plural, tolerant and democratic country with a dynamic and highly educated population. Following in the footsteps of your greatly esteemed father, King Hussein, you yourself play a central role in the ongoing process of modernisation and adjustment in the political and economic domain. The challenges confronting Jordan, with its fast growing population, are considerable. You are faced with the difficult task of offering the many young people in your country the prospect of a meaningful future. The awareness that economic growth must go hand-in-hand with concern for the environment and for the preservation of your rich cultural and historical heritage makes this responsibility even more complex. The first steps have been taken in this direction with the policy of gradual reform set out in the National Agenda. The course on which your Government has thus embarked is fully supported by our country and the European Union.

In a turbulent part of the world your country has succeeded, both in the past and during recent developments, in maintaining good relations with its neighbours and has often played a pioneering role in this regard. Through the years, Jordan has dedicated itself to peace and stability in the region, and in 1994 concluded a peace agreement with Israel.

Jordan's history is closely linked to that of the three great monotheistic religions. Against that background, your great personal dedication to encouraging dialogue between Islam and the West comes to the fore. In this endeavour, you are continuing the work of your father and of your uncle, Prince Hassan. In various speeches you have referred to the tolerant and benevolent aspects of Islam, even towards those who think differently, and to the importance of tolerance and peaceful coexistence. You emphasised that Islam is not a religion of violence and terrorism but one of moderation, forgiveness and mercy. These values and ideals also form the core of the 'Amman message', delivered in 2004, which rejected terrorism and stressed that peace must be the foundation for relations between Muslims themselves and with others.

Your Majesty,

The relations between our two countries are good - and have always been so. Our cooperation has been strengthened and intensified in recent years in both the political and social fields. Dutch people living in Jordan are active in many different areas, not only in trade and enterprise but also in the cultural field and in civil society organisations such as your deaf-blind institute. Jordanians, in turn, have invested in Dutch agriculture. Trade missions from each country have visited the other. While our countries mostly work together within the framework of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, our bilateral cooperation is certainly significant.

Your Majesty,

The excellent relations between our two countries are reflected in the warm ties between our two families. Many members of our families of different generations meet each other regularly. Your father paid an official visit to the Netherlands and ten years later my husband and I went to Jordan. Your State visit is in keeping with this tradition and we are delighted to welcome you.

May I invite all present to raise their glasses with me and to drink to your health, to that of Queen Rania, and to a bright - and peaceful - future for the Jordanian people.

More information: www.kingabdullah.jo