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memri
July 24, 2019 No.
8192

Following Jordan-Qatar Rapprochement, Senior Jordanian Journalist Reassures Saudi Arabia And Its Allies

Jordan and Qatar recently upgraded the level of diplomatic representation by exchanging ambassadors, two years after recalling their respective ambassadors from each other's capitals. On July 16, 2019 Jordan appointed Zaid Al-Louzi, a veteran diplomat and secretary-general of Jordan's foreign ministry, as ambassador to Qatar,[1]after Qatar appointed Sheikh Sa'ud bin Nasser bin Jassim Aal Thani, a member of its ruling family, as ambassador in Amman.[2] The recalling of ambassadors two years ago was prompted by pressures exerted on Jordan by the Arab Quartet (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt) following the crisis that broke out between the Quartet and Qatar in May 2017.[3] However, despite the formal downgrading of relations, in practice the ties between the two countries were not significantly affected. Jordanian and Qatari officials continued to meet, and Jordan was not party to the economic boycott of Qatar. Moreover, Qatar even granted Jordan $500 million in economic aid.

The Jordanian government media reported on the restoring of relations very laconically, apparently in order to avoid angering the countries in conflict with Qatar, which are considered to be allies of Jordan. Reports on the decision to exchange ambassadors first appeared on local news websites,[4] and only later did Jordan's official news agency and the government daily Al-Rai announce it. Op-eds on the subject were also few.

Following the initial reports on Jordan's decision, senior Jordanian journalist Fahd Al-Khitan, who is close to regime circles. In a column titled "Jordan and Qatar – Why Now" in the Al-Ghad daily, he explained that Jordan was not a side in the intra-Gulf conflict and that its decision to upgrade the relations with Qatar followed from its policy of maintaining balanced relations with all Arab countries. He stressed that the move would not come at the expense of Jordan's close relations with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt.

The following are excerpts from his column.[5]

"Amman and Doha are preparing to raise the level of diplomatic representation [by exchanging] ambassadors, following two years during which [the level of] representation was reduced due to the growing crisis between Qatar and the Gulf States. Initially, Jordan did not heed the pressures [from the Gulf States] to sever its ties with Qatar, due to [its] commitment to [its] historic foreign policy approach which advocates maintaining steady and ongoing ties with all Arab countries. Qatar is not the only example of this. When all the Arab states severed their ties with Syria, the Jordanian embassy in Damascus remained open.

"Diplomatic differences between countries are no reason to sever the ties [between them], and the system of bilateral interests can continue to operate [despite] these differences. That was the case with [Jordan and] Qatar. In fact, the bilateral relations were even enhanced during the period of reduced diplomatic representation, especially when Doha hastened to help Jordan deal with its economic crisis, opened [Qatar's] gates and offered employment to tens of thousands of Jordanians, and invested funds in [Jordan's] economic sectors.[6] Simultaneously, meetings on the ministerial level continued.

"Jordan was not a side in the intra-Gulf conflict [between Qatar on the one hand and Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain on the other], and hoped for a quick resolution of [their] crisis with Qatar. But later developments indicated that the crisis was ongoing and no end was in sight, so [Jordan] decided to raise the level of diplomatic representation [with Qatar] to the level [of its ties with] the other sides [in the conflict]. Thus, the exchange of ambassadors between Amman and Doha will not be at the expense of its stable and close relations with the other Gulf States, and will not mark any shift in direction away from its close ties with important countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt. Based on Jordan's direct interests, dispatching a Jordanian ambassador to Qatar had become crucial and vital in order to safeguard and strengthen these interests, for Qatar is home to over 50,000 Jordanians, and Qatari investments [in Jordan] are estimated at billions [of dollars] and are expected to grow in the future.

"This is Jordan's approach [to handling] its foreign relations and national interests. It does not harm any party, and even ensures good relations with everyone.

"[Some] politicians believe that Jordan's move of rapprochement with Qatar heralds similar moves through other diplomatic channels. Jordan has long been suffering because of the conflicts and wars in the region and paying a heavy price in terms of its economy and the living standards of its people, and it is entitled to take measures of every sort to compensate for its losses and attain achievements for the sake of its people...

"Since the first Gulf War, Jordan has been suffering from the fact that its relations and positions vis-a-vis the Gulf states have been misunderstood, and for many years it has been making efforts to overcome this and to establish balanced and close ties with all of them, regardless of their positions on regional issues and regardless of the relations between them. Thanks to this principle, anchored in Jordanian foreign policy by King 'Abdallah II, Jordan has not been in crisis with any Arab country, and did not sever its diplomatic relations with anyone. The raising of the level of its diplomatic relations with Qatar simply reinforces this principle, and nothing more."[7]

 


[1] Al-Rai (Jordan), July 17, 2019.

[2] Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), June 27, 2019.

[4] Amonnews.net, June 22, 2019; hala.jo, June 23, 2019.

[5] Al-Ghad (Jordan), June 25, 2019.

[7] Al-Ghad (Jordan), June 25, 2019.