Her Majesty Queen Noor on Friday delivered the keynote address at the opening of the Middle East Youth Summit in Villars, Switzerland, outlining to participants the requirements of a just and sustainable peace treaty for the Middle East, according to a press release.
“You must build your peace treaty on a foundation of justice by ensuring the full human and national rights of all sides. More specifically, we hope that your treaty will affirm that the peoples of the Middle East have an equal right to sovereignty, security, stability and progress. All the parties to the conflict must be able to live in viable states—or the structure of the peace we seek to build will collapse,” Queen Noor said.
The week-long Youth Summit is being held under the auspices of the Swiss government and with representatives of the governments of Jordan, Egypt, the Palestinian National Authority, Israel and the United States. The delegates are all teenage graduates of Seeds of Peace, a U.S.-based organization that promotes coexistence programs for young people from regions of conflict. They will work on developing a declaration on critical issues that include Palestinian statehood, refugees, Jerusalem, settlements and security, the statement said.
According to the Queen, one of the reasons that the peace process is stalled is because Palestinians are being “forced to live in an odd patchwork of disconnected land units in which they can exercise only partial rights,” a situation that violates U.S. Security Council decisions requiring Israel to “withdraw from all occupied territories and also the principle of self-determination and statehood for Palestinians.”
Queen Noor expressed her hope that the delegates would recognize “an essential but often forgotten component of this conflict … the continued injustice towards the million of Palestinian refugees throughout the region and elsewhere in the world.” These refugees are “men, women and children who wake up everyday to face the rigors of life without the most basic rights that most of us take for granted—the right to a nationality, a passport, an identity, a state, to live in their own ancestral homeland, to travel freely, to work legally, to receive medical care and schooling, and ultimately to return to their homes or be compensated for their losses.”
Regarding Jerusalem, the Queen noted that it cannot be a city of “God’s peace if it is also a city of checkpoints with armed soldiers, of bombs on buses and in shopping malls, of humiliating travel passes, of vast inequities in social services, of destruction and confiscation of homes and lands, and of illegal revocation of residency permits for families who have lived there for hundreds of years.”
On the same issue of settlements, she emphasized that the participants must address the “hundreds of illegal settlements and colonies on occupied Arab lands” which have rekindled violence. The Queen noted that “violence takes root in people who feel pushed to extremes, hopeless and disenfranchised.” She said true security could only be achieved “in the minds and hearts of people through confidence and trust.”
The Middle East Youth summit will feature speakers such as chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, Egyptian undersecretary Osama Al Baz, former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, U.N. Assistant Secretary General Vladimir Petrovsky and a satellite address by U.S. First Lady Hillary Clinton.
The result of the Youth Summit, which will be called the Declaration of Villars, will be presented to the U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in New York later this month, according to the announcement.
Seeds of Peace is a summer camp in the United States for 12-14 year-old children from countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa. At the camp they learn about conflict resolution by participating in a variety of activities that range from team sports to theatrical plays and coexistence seminars. The children also travel to Washington, where they stay for a week to meet with the president, the vice president, and members of Congress and the Supreme Court.
Since 1993, Seeds of Peace has brought teenagers from the Middle East, Bosnia and other troubled regions to its conflict resolution and coexistence camp. The organization plans to launch a program for Greek and Turkish youth from Cyprus this summer.
Queen Noor, who was accompanied by her advisor Lina Toukan, was received by Jordanian Ambassador to Switzerland Adbul Latif Baowals and U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Kurin, the statement added.