Fourth Petra Conference of Nobel Laureates

King: the single-most important step is peace

June 18, 2008

(Royal Hashemite Court, Media & Communication Directorate - Petra) His Majesty King Abdullah today opened the Fourth Petra Conference of Nobel Laureates urging conference participants to lead hands-on involvement in the development of the Middle East.  "Throughout Jordan, and across the region, millions of people want to be part of a stable, moderate, modern Middle East," King Abdullah said at the opening ceremony of the two-day conference, in the city of Petra in southern Jordan, which was also attended by Her Majesty Queen Rania. "Long after today's conflicts are history, their lives will be shaped by what we did this year to build the foundation for the region's success."  Cooperation on common regional challenges to development requires not only leadership within the region, but the support of the wider world, and "no group can make a stronger contribution than you who are here today," he said, addressing dozens of Nobel Laureates and international public figures participating in this year's conference.  The Petra Conference of Nobel Laureates has convened annually since 2005, jointly organized by the King Abdullah II Fund for Development (KAFD) and the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity (EWFH). It is co-hosted by King Abdullah and Elie Wiesel, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.  The focus this year is on science education, economics and drivers of growth. Participants include Nobel Laureates from all six fields in which the Nobel Prize is awarded each year - peace, economics, literature, physics, chemistry and medicine - as well as eminent international leaders in media, business and educational institutions worldwide. Among this year's conference participants are Arab League Secretary General Amr Mousa, President of Croatia Stjepan Mesiو and President of Senegal and Chairman of the Organization of the Islamic Conference Abdoulaye Wade.  Discussions on education complement the operational launch during this year's conference of the Middle East Science Fund. The fund will support higher education in the sciences by funding multinational research projects pursued by master's degree students as well as cooperation among scientists from universities around the region. It will especially target cooperative endeavours in energy and renewable energy sources, water management, the environment, and technology. The fund will be registered under the umbrella of the KAFD. It will be managed by an executive board of directors and a manager and advised by an international council of Nobel Laureates, who will provide policy guidance and review research proposals recommended jointly by the KAFD and the EWFH to determine their eligibility for support. "The fund addresses a vital need of the developing world to achieve the growth and spread of advanced scientific knowledge, especially about the practical issues that most concern our region's future," King Abdullah said, adding that the fund would target research and knowledge-sharing in areas of importance to all countries in the Middle East.  The King said that changing lives on the ground in the Middle East through practical action is as crucial to the region's future as the international political process concerning Middle East peace, which, he said needed to move the region "out of the threat zone".  "The single-most important step is peace: a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict," he said. "It would be a serious mistake to miss the opportunities we have this year: to establish, finally, a sovereign, independent, and viable Palestinian state, along with a secure and recognized Israel, in a region that is unified, at peace, and ready to move forward. This work, the work of peace and progress, should have all our support."