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Egypt makes efforts to influence Jordan on ‘deal of the century’

Crown Prince and Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud (L) is welcomed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) at Cairo International Airport in Cairo, Egypt on 4 March, 2018 [Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Kingdom Council/Handout/Anadolu Agency])
Crown Prince and Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud (L) is welcomed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) at Cairo International Airport in Cairo, Egypt on 4 March, 2018 [Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Kingdom Council/Handout/Anadolu Agency])

Egyptian diplomatic sources revealed on Friday that the regime of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi is making extensive efforts to persuade Jordan to join the “deal of the century” discussions about Palestine and Israel. “Jordan has an opposing position on the suggested US-Israeli vision of a settlement of the Palestinian cause,” they said, adding that the Hashemite Kingdom’s Abdullah II believes that the deal imposes unfair conditions and additional obligations on his country, at a time when it is fully favourable towards Israel.

“These efforts were made during a secret visit to Cairo by Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of US President Donald Trump, and a senior adviser earlier this month,” revealed the anonymous sources. Kushner met with General Abbas Kamel, Director of the General Intelligence Service, and the Director of the Office of the Egyptian President, in the presence of the acting US ambassador and prominent Egyptian officials with a direct interest in the “deal of the century”. Kushner’s meetings in Cairo addressed the Jordanian position and the position of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who refuses to respond to the US vision.

The sources added that the Egyptian efforts to influence Jordan’s position are also moving towards convincing King Abdullah to announce Jordan’s participation in the NEOM economic zone project, led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. The Saudi Prince wants Jordan to join NEOM at the same time as Riyadh’s official announcement of an agreement with Cairo guaranteeing the acquisition of a thousand square kilometres of land in of South Sinai earmarked for the massive project.

Read: Trump puts off announcement of ‘Deal of the Century’

Pressure is being applied on Jordan by Gulf States to accept the formula as presented, either by the US or Saudi Arabia. The NEOM project appears to be part of the “deal of the century” to internationalise the Red Sea; while Jordan welcomes a participatory formula there is no apparent deal on a Saudi lease or right to use Jordanian territory and facilities.

It seems that Jordan has in return been making efforts to strike a balance in its favour and ease the regional pressure from the US-backed axis of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE by opening channels with Turkey in the framework of standing with the Palestinians. Amman is also trying to persuade Abbas on this issue.

On Tuesday, Egypt’s Al-Sisi and Defence Minister General Sedki Sobhy met with Jordanian Prime Minister Hani Al-Mulki, who made a surprise visit to Cairo that lasted several hours. They discussed Jordan’s position on the NEOM project and the “deal of the century” in an attempt to change the Hashemite Kingdom’s allegedly “negative” stance.

Al-Mulki’s visit to Cairo came a few hours after Mahmoud Abbas’s short visit to Amman, accompanied by the Secretary-General of the PLO Executive Committee, Saeb Erekat; the head of the Palestinian Authority’s General Intelligence Service in the West Bank, Majid Faraj; and a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, Hussein Al-Sheikh. Palestinian officials asserted that the meeting between Abbas and King Abdullah discussed the “coordination of common positions on attending a conference of donor countries to discuss ways to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza, as well as breaking through the US President’s position on the deal of the century.”

The NEOM project was announced by Saudi Arabia’s Bin Salman last October. It will be located in the far north-west of the Kingdom on the border with Jordan. It is intended to include territory within Egypt — via a bridge — and Israel, with the latter joining once territorial matters regarding the Palestinian issue are agreed upon.

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