26 June 2012 – STABLE BUT VULNERABLE, JORDAN IS LOOKING FOR DIALOGUE WITH AND SUPPORT FROM THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
The meeting with Jordanian high officials gave a delegation from the NATO PA a better understanding of the considerable challenges that the country faces. The delegation, consisting of 12 members of the Mediterranean and Middle East Special Group, had talks with its peers from the Senate and the Lower House of the Kingdom of Jordan, and also with its Prime Minister, Fayez Al-Tarawneh.
Despite its moderate and pragmatic foreign policy, Jordan, an island of stability at the heart of a region that is turbulent to say the least, is nevertheless greatly affected by the crises that surround it and which weaken still further a country whose lack of natural resources presents a daily challenge. The Prime Minister stresses that Jordan accepts its responsibilities and is one of the most generous contributors to peacekeeping missions. He maintains that the Kingdom has never sent refugees back to their countries of origin, but is handicapped by its limited natural resources. He told the delegation that he was extremely concerned about the situation in Syria.
The Hashemite Kingdom, fourth in the world in terms of lack of water and heavily dependent on foreign states for its energy supplies and income, suffers all the collateral effects of the conflicts that surround it.
Palestinians flocked to Jordanian territory when the State of Israel was created, and at each Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Today over 60% of the Jordanian population is of Palestinian origin, a distinctive demographic configuration that gives rise to many difficulties.
Several thousand Iraqis have now joined the Palestinian refugees, plus in recent months some 10 000 Libyans, receiving treatment in the Kingdom's hospitals. Above all, however, there are the Syrian refugees, 20 000 in number if only those registered with the government or the United Nations are taken into account.
Over and above the substantial economic burden and the considerable work involved in receiving and managing these people, by both the government and the United Nations, the Syrian crisis troubles Jordan. Most of those who met the NATO PA delegation spoke of their concerns regarding the Syrian situation, some of them referring to it unequivocally as a civil war. Some of them even went further, declaring that the sectarian war units that were steadily being set up were omens of a war that might be much worse than the war in the Balkans.
These frank and open discussions with Jordanian officials have provided the basis for consideration in the Mediterranean and Middle East Special Group, whose report this year focused on developments in Syria and their security implications.
Jordan is at the centre of the regional security challenges, but remains a stable and reliable partner in a Middle East and North Africa in turmoil. But for how long? The problems that flow from regional instability are compounded by major democratic reforms (over a third of the Constitution has been revised in the last few months) instituted by the Kingdom, and even though these form part of a search for long-term stability they might be damaging in the short term.
The Jordanian authorities are aware of this: the country is more than ever in need of international support. As Taher Al-Masri, the President of the Senate, affirms, Jordan needs the understanding of the NATO countries. Fayez Al-Tarawneh, the Prime Minister, who is also the President of the Mediterranean Assembly, follows the same line: he is supporting and seeking inter-parliamentary dialogue in the region and with the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.