His Majesty King Abdullah’s visit to Saudi Arabia was successful as the Saudis expressed their understanding of the economic challenges facing Jordan and pledged support for the Kingdom in the face of these challenges, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Judeh said on Tuesday.
In an interview with The Jordan Times, Judeh said the primary goal of the visit was to congratulate the Saudi monarch on his safe return and recovery and to express appreciation to the Gulf kingdom for its generous support of $400 million to Jordan, nearly a month ago.
“We certainly discussed very frankly… the situation here in Jordan. The statement that came out by the Saudi royal court after the visit clearly stated the Saudi support to the Kingdom,” the minister said.
He stressed that the Saudi-Jordanian relations are historic and extremely close, adding that the Monarch personally thanked the Saudi king for his support of Jordan’s bid to joining the Gulf Cooperation Council, which was also referred to in the Saudi royal court’s statement.
Judeh added that the Saudis are seriously looking into ways and means to support Jordan, considering the economic challenges facing the country, particularly the rise of international prices of oil over the past months.
He explained that each $1 increase in the international price of oil translates into a $25 million additional burden on Jordan every year.
“We also discussed the negative impact of the interruption of the Egyptian gas supply to Jordan. That is a cost of $5 million a day on Jordan, and in the first six months of this year, we had an 80-day interruption of the gas supply, not to mention the reduction of the quantities last year. So, altogether it’s been quite a negative impact on the economy.”
“We also explained the need for electricity generating companies to have a reserve of oil in order to maintain the supply of energy and the generation of electricity,” Judeh told The Jordan Times.
Relations with the Palestinians
The minister reiterated that there are no differences in views between Jordan and the Palestinian Authority with regards to statehood bid, adding that the two sides agree that the ultimate way to achieve statehood is through direct negotiations.
He noted that negotiations are the only way to tackle final status issues that include refugees, Jerusalem, borders, security and water, which all have to do with Jordan’s national interests.
“We are not just supporters of this, we are stakeholders and, therefore, we are - as we have always been - coordinating with the Palestinian Authority in order to ensure they get their independent, viable and contiguous state with East Jerusalem as its capital… We are in complete agreement on this,” he said.
Citing the last meeting of the Arab Peace Initiative Follow-up Committee in Doha, Judeh said the statement issued by the committee was very clear in welcoming the parameters set by US President Barack Obama on May 19, rejecting the Israeli government’s negative reaction and opposition to these parameters.
The statement stressed that if Israel does not accept these parameters, the Palestinians will have very limited choices left, which include going to the UN to seek membership and recognition of their statehood.
“That was a unanimous decision and Jordan is part of the Arab consensus. If this is the way the Arabs - including the Palestinians - wish to take, then we will support and join the consensus efforts,” the minister said.
“We have always called for an independent Palestinian state in accordance with international legitimacy, but let us not forget that the most effective way to get to this is through negotiations and that’s [why] we are looking towards the Quartet meeting on July 11 with much anticipation, hoping that there will be a very clear statement that comprises not only the parameters that were set by Obama but hopefully a modality through which we can negotiate. That remains our ultimate priority: getting negotiations back on track.”
He highlighted that the Hashemite custodianship of the holy sites in Jerusalem, both Christian and Islamic, is beyond dispute and that this role is currently upheld by His Majesty King Abdullah personally, adding that this issue is clearly stated in the peace treaty signed between Jordan and Israel and was addressed before that in the Washington declaration in 1994.
With regards to the formula of the draft decision that will be presented to the UN, Judeh said there will be discussions with the Palestinians at the technical level as well as with other Arab states.
“After the peace initiative committee meeting in Doha, a subcommittee was set up, in which Jordan is a member, tasked with studying the most effective way to approach the UN... There was a discussion among the Palestinians on whether to go to the Security Council, in accordance with the UN Charter, Chapter 4, Article 12, and seek membership, or go directly to the General Assembly and seek recognition of a Palestinians state,” he explained.
He stressed that unless there is a breakthrough and not only a means of bypassing September, the Palestinians, supported by the Arabs, will not be detterred from going to the UN in a bid to seek statehood.
Judeh noted that such a breakthrough includes a mechanism with a preset timeline that leads to addressing the final status issues and leads to the ultimate goal of an independent, viable state in accordance with the international legitimacy.
Bab Al Magharbeh Bridge
On a recent UNESCO decision concerning the Old City of Jerusalem and Bab Al Magharbeh, Judeh said Israel wanted to reconstruct the site with a unilateral design that does not correspond with the heritage of the site and the special nature of the prevailing architecture.
“Right now the temporary bridge is about to collapse, so we agreed with the Israelis that they can replace this specific part so long that it is part of the overall package that includes building a permanent bridge in coordination with Jordan and in accordance with the peace treaty which states the Hashemite role in Jerusalem,” he noted.
Judeh elaborated that on March 15, Jordanian and Israeli technical teams signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on this matter.
However, two months after the memo was signed, Israel unilaterally submitted a design to reconstruct the bridge to UNESCO, he said, adding that the Kingdom fought internationally against this Israeli plan and submitted a Jordanian design.
The minister added that the technical teams revisited that agreement and signed another MoU on June 21, referring to the March 15 memo and also saying that Jordan does not object to the construction of a temporary bridge so long as it complies with the overall design package.
“Israel is demanding Jordan to withdraw the resolution, but Jordan is insisting that unless Israel withdraws its unilateral design, which they submitted to UNESCO, the Arab resolution, to which Jordan contributed effectively and was adopted few days ago by UNESCO, will not be withdrawn,” he stressed.
Bab Al Magharbeh Bridge is located at the western side of Al Aqsa Mosque’s wall, while the gate and the road make an integral part of the mosque, and have been used by Muslims to reach Al Aqsa for prayers for centuries.