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Jordan’s response to Qatar’s aid needs serious consideration

June 21, 2018 at 2:30 pm

King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (C-L), Jordanian King Abdullah II (C-R), Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah (L) and Vice President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (R) meet within a summit to discuss ways of easing an ongoing economic crisis in Jordan, on 11 June, 2018 in Mecca, Saudi Arabia [Saudi Kingdom Handout/Anadolu Agency]

The State of Qatar did not hesitate to lend a helping hand to Jordan in its economic crisis; nor did Qatar’s current enemies, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The Qatari Foreign Minister has visited Amman and announced his government’s decision to allocate $500 million for investment purposes and offer 10,000 job opportunities in Qatar to Jordanian citizens.

Jordan-Qatar relations are paradoxical. Even after the Jordanian government decided to reduce the level of diplomatic representation between the two countries and close Al-Jazeera’s office in Amman, in solidarity with the decision of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain (along with Egypt) to impose a political and economic siege on Qatar, trade relations between Amman and Doha were revived.

On an unannounced political level, the relations between officials in both countries have improved. Both sides refrain from engaging in media confrontations, unlike those which are ongoing between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours.

Nevertheless, relations between Jordan and Qatar were not at their best before the crisis. Mutual sensitivities and differences in political positions made them lukewarm. Moreover, Jordan has not forgotten that Qatar was the only Gulf state which failed to pay its share of the financial aid pledged to Jordan by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states over six years ago.

Read: Targeting Jordan’s stability as part of the deal of the century

Would Jordan’s position on the Qatar crisis be different if Doha had kept its promise and paid its share? Perhaps, and maybe the Qataris have regretted their decision retrospectively. It is clear, though, that the Gulf States’ decision to help Jordan was prompted by the US. Was this also the case with Qatar?

Even if we rule this out, there are stronger Qatari justifications for moving towards Jordan, which can be felt in the context of the country’s post-crisis policy. This policy is based on the concept of shortening the list of adversaries and maximizing the circle of allies in order to contain the political and economic repercussions of the siege.

Qatari diplomacy has appeared to be more conciliatory recently than ever before, distancing itself from contentious issues, both at the bilateral and regional levels. The treatment it received from its neighbours was a shock, forcing Doha to conduct a radical review of its previous approaches, the most prominent manifestation of which was creating a close link to Iran and Turkey at the same time.

The relationship with Jordan is another example of a change in policy, as Qatar absorbed Jordan’s position on its Gulf crisis and when an opportunity to respond emerged, the government in Doha made sure to compete with the Makkah summit with an economic offer to Jordan of its own without any political strings attached. According to diplomatic sources, during his visit to Amman, the Qatari Foreign Minister did not mention the matter of diplomatic representation, nor did he put any other demands on the table.

Read: Gulf intervention in Jordan has raised suspicions across the region

The Qatari offer has an added advantage compared with the others, as Jordan has a truly dire need to address the problem of unemployment by providing job opportunities for its citizens in the Gulf market. Should the two countries manage this matter effectively and rapidly, it will have a significant positive impact.

If the Qatari government provides its share of the Gulf grant immediately — which amounts to $1.25 billion in total — what will Jordan’s response be? The question deserves careful consideration by Doha.

This articles was first published in Arabic on The New Khalij, 20 June 2018 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.