Jordan improves ties with Turkey despite fears of Ankara’s agenda

Jordan’s move to open up to Turkey is fuelled by economic and internal political considerations.
Thursday 22/02/2018
King Abdullah II (R) meets with the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Amman, on February 19. (Jordanian Royal Court)
King Abdullah II (R) meets with the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Amman, on February 19. (Jordanian Royal Court)

AMMAN - Jordan and Turkey are taking steps to strengthen bilateral ties despite concerns in Amman over Ankara’s political motives.

Jordanian King Abdullah II met with Turkey’s Chief of the General Staff General Hulusi Akar about ways to enhance military cooperation and the fight against terrorism. Also present at the meeting was Jordanian Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Lieutenant-General Mahmoud Freihat.

A military cooperation agreement, the details of which were not made public, was signed at the meeting.

A day before Akar’s visit, King Abdullah received Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, with whom he stressed the importance of improving relations between the two countries at the highest levels.

The two sides discussed bilateral ties and regional developments, notably the war in Syria and the Trump administration’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Cavusoglu also met with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi.

“Jordan’s relations with Turkey are steadily progressing,” Safadi said at a news conference with Cavusoglu in Amman.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (L) meets his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi in Amman, on February 19. (AFP)

Cavusoglu praised Jordan’s efforts to safeguard Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem and Safadi said he hoped the Turkish military operation in Syria’s Afrin would “end up with a result that would ensure safety for Turkey.”

Safadi said the two countries were studying ways to improve bilateral trade.

“Our talks have provided an opportunity to discuss challenges facing the development of economic relations between the two countries,” he added.

Cavusoglu said the Turkish government would be revising the Jordanian-Turkish Free Trade Agreement to facilitate the entry of Jordanian exports to Turkey.

“[W]e evaluated steps to be taken to upgrade Turkey-Jordan cooperation in all fields, such as reaching the common goal of increasing the trade volume to $3 billion,” said Cavusoglu.

He expressed his country’s interest in using Jordan’s Aqaba port as a regional hub for Turkish exports, especially to Africa.

Jordan’s move to open up to Turkey, despite reservations over Turkey’s support to the Muslim Brotherhood, including the group’s Jordanian branch, is fuelled by economic and internal political considerations, observers said.

The Jordanian government, which announced it would increase the prices of fuel and bread to help cut its debt, as recommended by the International Monetary Fund, is worried the Brotherhood-dominated opposition could stoke public discontent over the price hikes.

By strengthening ties with Turkey, observers argued, Jordan would keep its opposition in check and improve the country’s economic conditions, denying the Brotherhood a pretext to lead anti-government protests.

Jordan’s economic troubles have increased due to a sharp decline in aid from Arab Gulf countries and its hosting of approximately 1.5 million Syrian refugees. Jordan is no longer able to rely on a cheap supply of oil from Iraq, which is occupied with its own economic crisis.

Turkey would benefit by adding Jordan to its list of regional allies, which include Qatar, Somalia and Sudan.

The Amman-Ankara rapprochement, however, could risk straining Jordan’s ties with its Arab allies, notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

The four Arab countries, which expressed suspicions about Doha’s ties with Ankara, are likely to pay close attention to Jordan’s developing ties with Turkey.