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Posts tagged ‘Land of the Arab Revival’

Jordan and Turkey get cozy

Osama Al Sharif

February 27, 2018

Jordan and Turkey are bolstering ties in a bid to unify positions toward regional challenges where the two countries share mutual interests, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Syrian crisis. King Abdullah II hosted Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Gen. Hulusi Akar, the commander of the Turkish Armed Forces, on separate visits to Amman over the course of two days, Feb. 19 and 20, respectively.

Cavusoglu met with the Jordanian monarch to review bilateral relations and the latest regional developments, according to a Royal Court statement. The king stressed his “keenness to continue coordination on issues of concern to the Islamic nation and enhance security and stability of the region.” Moreover, the two sides discussed economic cooperation and bilateral trade. Cavusoglu announced that his government “would revise the Jordanian-Turkish free trade agreement to facilitate the entry of Jordanian exports to Turkey.” He also said Turkey was looking into using the “Aqaba port as a regional hub for Turkish exports to various markets, including Africa,” the Jordan Times reported. A day later, Abdullah and Akar discussed bilateral military cooperation and the fight against terrorism, according to the Royal Court.

During a meeting with Turkish nationals in Amman on Feb. 18, Cavusoglu said that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan planned to visit Jordan in the near future. Erdogan last visited the kingdom in August 2017, and Abdullah had traveled to Ankara on Dec. 6, the day US President Donald Trump announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Erdogan shares Abdullah’s opposition to Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. On Dec. 13 in Istanbul, the king attended a special session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, where they rejected Trump’s proclamation.

The promotion of Jordanian-Turkish bilateral ties comes at a time when Amman and Ankara are recalibrating their positions in the wake of recent regional developments and in anticipation of the possible fallout of Trump’s Middle East peace plan, which is expected to be announced in the coming weeks. The two countries are yet to react to the news that the US State Department had sped up moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, now scheduled for May 2018.

Abdullah is a strong supporter of the two-state solution as the only way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and he is committed to his role as custodian of the Muslim and Christian holy sites in East Jerusalem. Both issues could be affected by Trump’s peace plan and Israel’s far right coalition government.

Abdullah’s pivot toward Turkey comes at a time when Jordan is worried that some key Arab states might be ready to embrace Trump’s plan even if it rejects the two-state option. There is a belief in Jordan, supported by anti-Iran statements from the Saudis, that Riyadh considers the issue of Iran as a regional threat to be more important and pressing than the Arab-Israeli conflict. Egypt’s position is unclear but will be crucial in determining the fate of the US peace plan.

It is no secret that relations between Amman and Riyadh have further cooled since Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. According to local analysts, the Saudis resisted calls by Amman to hold an emergency Arab summit on Jerusalem after the US announcement. In addition, Saudi Arabia was not satisfied with Jordan’s reaction to its moves beginning last June to pressure and isolate Qatar.

Amman did not cut ties with Doha, choosing instead to only downgrade diplomatic relations and close Al Jazeera offices. Other reasons for the cooling in bilateral relations concerns Amman’s position on the war in Yemen — Jordan’s participation in the Saudi-led coalition was symbolic and short-lived — and courting of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has representation in the Jordanian parliament.

Jordan is keen to avoid being seen as joining regional blocs or coalitions. Despite Amman’s historically close relations with the Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia, Abdullah has always followed an independent policy that shuns polarization. This is demonstrated in Amman maintaining low-key diplomatic relations with Tehran, despite its rejection of Iran’s controversial role in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Abdullah was the first Arab leader to warn of a Shiite crescent, going back to 2004.

Given Abdullah’s approach to foreign policy, Jordan’s growing closeness to Turkey, which has sided with Qatar in the Gulf dispute, will be carefully managed. The two sides have shared interests in the outcome of the Syrian crisis, and they both back Palestinian rights and the two-state solution. Turkey’s strong support for the Hashemite’s role in East Jerusalem is of important moral value.

Yet according to Jordanian political analyst Amer al-Sabaileh, both Jordan and Turkey are affected by “the damaging US regional policies.” In this regard, he told Al-Monitor, “[For] Jordan, it is the peace process and Trump’s derailing of the two-state solution, and for Turkey, it is the US backing of Syria’s Kurds and the uncertainty over the latest Turkish incursion into northern Syria.”

In addition to deeper political coordination, Jordan, which has suffered economically as a result of the crises in Syria and Iraq in the past few years, stands to benefit from better commercial ties with Turkey. Former Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Jawad Anani told Al-Monitor that the Turkish economy is around the 15th largest, and Turkey’s political and economic standing in the region is beyond dispute.

“The boosting of ties comes at a crucial time for Jordan, since Turkey represents a huge market for Jordanian goods, as well as a source of incoming tourists,” Anani said. “After Cavusoglu’s visit, Turkey exempted over 500 Jordanian goods from customs duties, which is a major opportunity for local industries.” He added that Turkish products and TV dramas are popular in Jordan, and Turkey is the No. 1 tourist destination for Jordanians.

Erdogan, however, remains a contentious figure among Jordanians. Many admire him for standing up to Israel and the United States, and for dialing back Turkey’s secular culture, but others view him as a demagogue and a political opportunist. Ironically, Abdullah’s view of Erdogan has not always been positive. In April 2003, The Atlantic reported the king as perceiving the then-Turkish prime minister as “merely promoting a softer-edged version of Islamism” and saying that Erdogan had told him that democracy is like “a bus ride” — “Once I get to my stop, I’m getting off.” Since that time, the two leaders appear to have realized that they are better off working together to offset common challenges in their troubled region.

Source: al-Monitor.



UNICEF: 85% of Syrian children in Jordan live in poverty

February 26, 2018

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that 85 per cent of Syrian refugee children in Jordan live below the poverty line.

In a statement released yesterday, the UN body said Syrian families are struggling to meet their basic needs, including feeding, educating and protecting their children.

According to the study, 94 per cent of Syrian children are under five years old and suffer from “multidimensional poverty”, meaning that they are deprived of a minimum of two out of the following five basic needs: education, health, water and sanitation, child protection and child safety.

Four out of ten Syrian families in host communities in Jordan are food insecure while 26 per cent are vulnerable to food insecurity.

“Forty-five per cent of children aged 0-5 years old do not have adequate health services, including vaccination,” it said.

UNICEF’s study revealed that 38 per cent of Syrian children are not enrolled in formal education or have dropped out of school because of distance, cost, lack of space or being bullied.

Moreover, 16 per cent of children aged 0-5 years old do not have birth certificates, which will present them with additional challenges and risks in the future.

It is estimated that Jordan hosts 1.3 million Syrians, only half of whom are registered refugees.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


Aid groups: 8,500 Syrians still held in Jordanian no-go camp

January 30, 2018

AZRAQ REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan (AP) — International aid groups say about 8,500 Syrians are still locked up behind barbed wire in a no-go section of Jordan’s second-largest refugee camp, despite initial assurances in 2016 the arrangement is temporary.

The Jordan INGO Forum, an alliance of 60 groups, asked Jordan to expedite security screenings of those held in Azraq camp’s “Village 5,” saying that at the current pace this would take until October 2020.

The alliance asked Jordan in a recent report to lift movement restrictions on Syrians in camps. Coordinator Yannick Martin said on Tuesday that Jordan has done much to host Syrian refugees, but that “a frank dialogue needs to take place” on movement restrictions.

Jordan says its security is paramount, that it shoulders a heavy refugee burden and that its security vetting is exemplary.

Jordan gets German military vehicles for border control

January 14, 2018

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Germany’s defense minister says her country is delivering millions of dollars’ worth of equipment to Jordan’s military to improve the kingdom’s border surveillance. Jordan borders Syria and Iraq, where Islamic State extremists held large areas until being pushed back in recent months by a U.S.-led military campaign. Jordan is a key ally in the battle against IS.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen attended a handover ceremony near Jordan’s capital, Amman, on Sunday. Germany is providing two training planes and dozens of military support vehicles to Jordan, worth a total of $22 million.

Von der Leyen says the equipment is meant to “improve mobility at the border,” as part of a plan to support Jordan. She praised Jordan as an anchor of stability in a violence-wracked region.

Bitcoin appeal beats ban and warnings in Jordan


By Roufan Nahhas – Amman

Amman – Despite its uncertain value and an official warning against trading with it, Jordanians are seeking to make transactions with bitcoin, the cryptocurrency and worldwide payment system that has been providing fast and big profits. While some are attracted to the digital currency, which has sky­rocketed in value over the past year, others look at it with skepticism.

The Central Bank of Jordan and the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission warned against deal­ings with any virtual currency, es­pecially bitcoin, but trades through financial brokers are still being con­ducted, though in a very limited way, the Jordanian Exchange Asso­ciation said.

“The whole world is doing it, so why not us?” asked one bitcoin dealer, who spoke to The Arab Weekly on condition of anonym­ity. “I bought some digital currency last year and I saw my money grow more than 200%. I can cash the money anytime but I don’t need it now so I am waiting for the right moment.”

“I know that there are many doubts surrounding the bitcoin but I have many friends in the United States who have made big fortunes there. The digital currency world is happening and we need to be part of it,” said the 31-year-old, adding that his initial $1,000 investment saw big returns in just four months.

“There are other options that are strong, too, and worth investing in. I am being careful not to invest a lot of money (in bitcoin) but it is fine with me to focus on one currency and see how things go,” he said.

While digital currencies are a trendy trading item, many Jordani­an economists have raised concerns about dealing with them.

“We are happy that the authori­ties banned dealings in such a vir­tual world because these curren­cies are not controlled by the price of gold or in any other normal way. Still, there is some interest here in Jordan to invest in them,” said jour­nalist Ziad Momani.

“The virtual world is full of threats and this could be one way for laundering money. So it is better to forget about it though some Eu­ropean countries allowed dealings with it.”

Fahed Khaled, 40, a business­man, said he is interested in invest­ing in digital currency but finds it risky and unclear.

“It is a kind of revolution on tra­ditional currency and, despite all warnings, many people are making money depending on how much you are willing to invest,” he said. “I find it a bit risky but I am sure every­one will follow soon as the world is catching up. We can see, for exam­ple, the British Central Bank plans to issue its own digital currency, so it is a matter of time only.”

“Today, there are many options in which a person can invest digi­tal currency but the general feel­ing, at least here, is not encourag­ing, although around the world and in the United States, for instance, there are machines in the streets where you can buy or sell bitcoins, which means it is legal to do so and I am sure soon it will be all over the world,” he added.

Some countries, such as Austral­ia, the United Kingdom, the Unit­ed States, Finland, South Korea, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Estonia have taken a positive stance towards bitcoin, others have banned the use of vir­tual currencies. In the Arab world, those restricting the use of bitcoin include Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.

Innovations often take time to be accepted in the Arab region. Egypt announced a ban on using any type of virtual currency and the coun­try’s top Islamic cleric issued a fat­wa against the currency. However, many people are trying to demon­strate the positive aspect of dealing with bitcoin, taking to social media to encourage others to trade with it.

“Bitcoin Egypt” is a Facebook page managed by Atef al-Khateeb, a Cairo-based bitcoin trader, with more than 2,000 followers. Khateeb said he is lucky to trade with bitcoin and invites followers to follow suit.

Last year in Dubai, the company behind a $325 million luxury hous­ing development said it would accept bitcoin payments, which shows confidence in the currency.

“The world cannot be wrong and if respectful companies are saying OK to bitcoin, I think there should be some truth in it,” Khaled said. “What is wrong about making mon­ey the easy way, many people are (doing it), bitcoin or no bitcoin.”

While many Arabs are hoping to become the next Erik Finman, the teenage bitcoin investor who reput­edly turned $1,000 into more than $5 million, they need to wait until their governments agree to enter the new world, even a virtual one.

Source: Middle East Online.


Christmas in Jordan dimmed by Jerusalem crisis


Christmas decorations won’t be illuminated in Jordan and the Palestin­ian territories this year following calls to turn off lights of Christmas trees to protest US President Donald Trump’s deci­sion to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Jordanian and Palestinian Chris­tians were looking forward to the festive season and preparations to celebrate Jesus’s birth were in full swing with Christmas markets, ac­tivities and festive food, until the US move dimmed the spirits.

Fadi Daoud from the Christian town Fuheis in central Jordan said that since Trump’s announcement posts on social media asked that Christmas trees’ lights be turned off as a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinians regarding Jerusalem.

“The decision by Trump evoked a lot of feelings towards Jerusalem and we, as Christians, feel the need to express our disagreement with this decision. That is why many turned to the social networks to ex­press their anger,” Daoud said.

He said the Christian communi­ty, which makes up 6% of Jordan’s population of 9.5 million, had been preparing for a joyful festive season, “which unfortunately was clouded by the development on Jerusalem, sparking anger and igniting emo­tions of both Christians and Mus­lims.”

The Jordan Tourism Board an­nounced the cancellation of Christ­mas celebrations at Jesus’s baptism site in support of Palestinians in Je­rusalem.

East Jerusalem, which Palestin­ians regard as the capital of their future state, is home to several Christian churches and Islam’s third holiest site, Haram al-Sharif.

In the West Bank city of Bethle­hem, the birthplace of Jesus and a major Christian pilgrimage destination south of Jerusalem, Christmas manifestations and displays were dropped and lights of main Christ­mas trees switched off following the announcement of Trump’s decision.

Early celebrations of the holiday season had started in Jordan with bazaars and markets offering hand­made decorations, festive food and activities for families. Visitors, however, were more interested in getting the feel of Christmas than spending money.

“It is a great feeling to be part of any Christmas activities and I am happy to take part in five Christmas bazaars,” said Rowaida Nino, an artisan selling handicrafts. “Some people are here to buy, especially decorations and home-made wine, but many are just window shop­ping. Probably they have other pri­orities.”

“In the past, people were happy to spend more money during the festive season but recently things have changed and most are care­ful about every penny spent,” she added.

Tareq Msalem, head of the Greek Catholic Scout and Guides society, which organizes a Christmas ba­zaar, stressed the growing popular­ity of the festive event.

“Absolutely, we can feel a huge dif­ference at this year’s bazaar. More people are displaying their products such as home-made wines and sweets that attracted many buyers; moreo­ver families en­joy the activities that come with the bazaar,” Msalem said.

Christmas season is also a time for giving and sharing.

“During this month, many ini­tiatives bring smiles to underprivi­leged children,” Msalem said. “We are happy to be part of the ‘Give’ initiative under which we collect used and new toys to give away. This year about 70 children will re­ceive toys, compared to 30 children last year.

“Many families cannot buy toys to their kids. Times have definitely changed to the worse.”

Greek Orthodox pastor George Sharayha said an increasing num­ber of families are impoverished because of the bad economy and inflation.

“Our role is to make them feel the spirit of Christmas in any way we can. Every year we see more fami­lies struggling to meet simple daily life demands,” he said.

A recent World Bank study stated that one-third of Jordan’s popula­tion lives below the poverty line.

The festive season is a time of the year when travel agents offer spe­cial packages to attract foreign and local tourists by promoting biblical sites and the rose-red city of Petra.

“This year we are hoping for the best and so far we have received requests from many tourists who want to celebrate the holidays here in Jordan, which some con­sider part of their pilgrimage to the baptism site,” said Murad Ghsoon, owner of a travel agency in Amman.

“Last year, we did not have much luck due to the events in Karak but this year we hope things will get better and so far it is.”

The Islamic State claimed re­sponsibility for an attack in the southern Jordanian city of Karak that killed ten people in December 2016. Seven Jordanian security of­ficers, a Canadian tourist and two Jordanian civilians were among the dead. Four attackers were also killed.

Source: Middle East Online.


5 Jordanians go missing in Saudi Arabia

December 3, 2017

Five Jordanian nationals have gone missing in Saudi Arabia, according to a Jordanian foreign ministry source.

The five were on a hunting trip in the northwestern Tabuk region when they disappeared, the source told Anadolu Agency, requesting anonymity because he was unauthorized to speak to media.

He, however, denied reports that the five had been found dead.

There was no comment from Saudi authorities on the report.

Source: Middle East Monitor.


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