By Mehmet Ozturk and Nasser Hajjaj
ANKARA (AA) – Jordan’s ambassador to Ankara hailed his country’s 70-year relationship with the Turkish Republic, describing it as “a distinguished and solid model in state relations,” in light of the mutual cooperation between the two countries in numerous areas, most notably in the economy and politics.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Jordanian Ambassador Amjad Al-Adaileh also praised what he called the “shining” Turkish model in receiving millions of Syrian refugees and called on the international community to meet its obligations in supporting Turkey and Jordan, which also hosts some 1.4 million refugees.
The interview marked the 70th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the Republic of Turkey and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which date back to 1947.
“Jordanian-Turkish relations over the past 70 years have been a model for well-established, deep, and strong relations,” al-Adaileh said.
“Relations between the two countries were established on foundations of trust and mutual respect, as they also evolved due to the wise Hashemite [Jordanian] and Turkish leadership since the founder of modern Turkey, the late president Mustafa Kemal Ataturk,” he added.
The Jordanian ambassador added, “The kingdom’s founder, King Abdullah Bin Al Hussein, visited Turkey in 1937 and held a historic meeting with the founder of the Turkish Republic, Ataturk.”
He said his country’s first diplomatic representation in Ankara opened on Jan.15, 1947, before being upgraded to the ambassadorial level in 1955.
-Turkey and Jordan: Wide-ranging ties
On the areas of cooperation between Turkey and Jordan, al-Adaileh said that his country’s relations with Ankara encompass all economic, political, and cultural fields, explaining, “The two countries are working on a permanent basis to maintain their consultations and coordination to face the ongoing challenges arising from regional conflicts.”
In this regard, the Jordanian ambassador indicated that Ankara and Amman back regional and international efforts to find political solutions to current regional crises, most importantly Syria, which, according to al-Adaileh, has a direct impact on the two countries, since “only Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon bear the Syrian crisis’ burden of receiving millions of refugees and meeting their needs.”
Addressing commercial cooperation between Turkey and Jordan, al-Adaileh said, “The volume of bilateral trade has doubled several times, especially after the abolition of visa requirements between the two sides, and approached $1 billion in 2015, up from only $150 million in 2010.”
“Amman has offered to establish a special free zone for Turkish industries in the Aqaba area – in the south of the country – to invest in and export from there to the nearby markets of Gulf and African countries and take advantage of the opportunities provided by the Jordanian economy.”
The Jordanian diplomat added that the two countries are working together towards opening a maritime trade route between the port of Aqaba, on the gulf of the same name, and Turkish ports to bypass the routes through Syria, which were cut off by the outbreak of the crisis there in 2011.
Al-Adaileh said Jordanian Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki is expected to soon pay an official visit to Turkey to meet with his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim to discuss many economic and political issues and open new avenues for cooperation in various areas.
On bilateral security cooperation against terrorism, Al-Adaileh said, “Amman and Ankara have a great deal of coordination, in the security sector, against the terrorist groups that have targeted many Muslim communities, with an aim to confront this transnational scourge that threatens our societies.”
The Jordanian ambassador also praised how Turkey recently co-brokered a cease-fire in Syria as well as preparations for the Astana peace conference later this month.
“Jordan stands with all sincere international efforts that may contribute to end the suffering of Syrians, as we in Jordan have absolute belief that the crisis can only be solved through an integrated comprehensive political process within which all the representatives of the Syrian components take part and agree on,” al-Adaileh said.
He continued: “Any solution to the Syrian crisis must consider the unity of the Syrian people and the integrity of Syrian territories as well and must be able to bring back solidarity and interdependence among all the Syrian components, and to establish a modern democratic state in an aim to restore the country’s status and role in the region.”
The Jordanian ambassador expressed hope that Turkish and Russian efforts to gather the Syrian regime and opposition around the same table in Astana will help find a comprehensive settlement to the crisis with a view to end all forms of violence and conflict in the country and return Syrian refugees to their homeland.
– Impact of Syrian refugees
On the impact of the Syrian crisis on Jordan, al-Adaileh said since the crisis began, his country has spent around $8 billion – about a quarter of its total budget – to host 1.4 million Syrian refugees, who represent a fifth of Jordan’s population, and 90 percent of whom live outside camps. The diplomat explained that his country received assistance for only 35 percent of what it has spent.
He called also international community to meet their commitments to support Jordan and Turkey, in particular the pledges made by many countries at last February’s London conference to support refugee-hosting countries which vowed to submit $10 billion to these countries.
Al-Adaileh praised the Turkish experience in receiving Syrian refugees, describing it as a “shining model.”
“Turkey has received about two-and-a-half-million Syrian refugees, and it has borne most of the expenses alone, as it also provided a positive and wonderful image of humanity in serving our Syrian brothers who have suffered as a result of the ongoing bloody conflict which erupted five years ago.”
– Palestine and Arab cooperation
On the Palestinian issue and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s stated intention to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem, as Jordan has trusteeship over Muslim holy sites in Palestine and in Jerusalem in particular, al-Adaileh said his country “will continue its historical and religious role in protecting the Islamic and Christian sacred places in Jerusalem.”
He explained, “Jordan will spare no effort to cooperate with our brothers and friends in the region to repulse any attempt that may affect the status of Jerusalem and its Arab and Islamic identity, on the basis of our religious duties and the Hashemite trusteeship over the holy places there via the diplomatic and political frameworks and by the international relations the kingdom has.”
On the Arab summit set to convene in Amman on March 29, the ambassador said it would be “an opportunity to discuss all the issues that would strengthen solidarity and Arab cooperation in order to come up with recommendations and solutions for the issues facing the Arab world.”
“We hope the Amman summit will be a turning point in Arab cooperation and a breakthrough towards solidarity by putting Arab differences aside and uniting our positions to confront all the attempts by terrorist groups to abuse Arabs and Muslims.”
On Turkish-Arab relations, al-Adaileh said, “These relations have deep historical roots due to shared religious and cultural ideas, and the region needs to establish an integrated regional system with strategic cooperation in the areas of the economy and security, to make peace, and in the fight against terrorism.”
“Turkey has a special status in the Arab world since Turkey’s economic openness has had a significant positive impact on boosting cooperation between the two sides,” he affirmed.
“Turkey is aware that its economic and security interests at the present can be attained only by intensifying cooperation with Arabs in the framework of mutual interests and common understanding,” al-Adaileh stressed.
On economic issues, al-Adaileh said IMF is projecting Jordan’s economic performance will improve this year, especially after implementation of a deal with the European Union to simplify the rules of origin on Jordanian exports, which should boost them.
The ambassador added that he hopes Jordan’s Al-Karama bordering crossing with Iraq will be reopened, since Iraq is considered one of its top trading partners.
At end of the interview, al-Adaileh exchanged souvenir mementos with Mehmet Ozturk, the director of Anadolu Agency’s Foreign Languages Department, and International Relations deputy head Serdar Mahmutogulları.
*Ali Abo Rezeg contributed to this report from Ankara