Peace, jobs high on agenda as Jordan's King Abdullah opens WEF

Jordan's King Abdullah speaks at the opening ceremony of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa 2013. (Reuters)

Peace between Israel and Palestine and the creation of more jobs in the Arab world are high on the agenda at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, at which King Abdullah gave today's formal opening address.

Jordan's King was joined at the forum by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who reiterated his desire for peace with Israel.

“We want to achieve the two-state solution. Two states that will live side by side in peace… The opportunity is still there for making this peace. Come, let this make this peace a reality achieved on the ground, so that our current and future generations would reap its benefits,” Abbas said.

“Ending the occupation of our land, and releasing our prisoners and the eviction of settlers and settlement activity, and dismantling the apartheid wall, is what makes peace and guarantees security for you and for us,” he added in words directed at the Israeli side.

Watch LIVE coverage of the event here

It is expected that a new initiative to help seek peace between Israel and Palestine will be announced later at the World Economic Forum, which is held at the Dead Sea.

The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the Israeli President Shimon Peres are both expected to attend the event, said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.

Employment is also high on the agenda. Schwab said that the WEF would be launching a “new vision for Arab employment” at the event. He said that the jobs shortfall marked the “single greatest challenge for the Middle East and North Africa”.

Jordan's King Abdullah said there was a need for “millions more jobs” in the region.

“Our region's single greatest economic crisis - youth unemployment - pleads for action,” he said.

King Abdullah formally opened the event, which coincides with Jordan Independence Day. He said that, despite the events of the Arab Spring, reform was ongoing process across the region as a whole.

“The Arab Spring and its call for human dignity has become the voice of our century,” he said. “This is a reason to stand proud, but we cannot stand still. Reform, democracy and peace are always work in progress.”

Jordan has received a flood of refugees from Syria, seeking shelter from an escalating civil war between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebel fighters trying to overthrow him.

King Abdullah said he expects more refugees will enter his country. “Our Jordanian population is now hosting 10 percent of its size in Syrian refugees, and this may double by year-end,” he said.

“In Syria, a political solution is urgently needed to stop that country's dangerous fragmentation, and to resolve the dire refugee crisis,” he added. “Increased humanitarian assistance from the global community is vital. But what's ultimately needed is an immediate end to the violence, so all the Syrian people can rebuild their country.”

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 13:50 - GMT 10:50
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