AMMAN: The long-standing relationship between Saudi Arabia and Jordan is the story of the two kingdoms becoming a “model” for regional and pan-Arab cooperation, which is expected to be strengthened by several new initiatives on the political and political fronts. economic, according to experts.
Ahead of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s upcoming visit to Jordan, observers point to the two peoples’ long shared history, similar culture and values, which have impacted diplomatic relations.
“Diplomacy is not the right word to describe Amman-Riyadh relations. It’s history, geography, politics and common interests,” said Samih Maaitah, Jordan’s former minister of media affairs.
In remarks to Arab News, Maaitah explained that the two nations have become a “model” for regional cooperation and coordination, thanks to “a number of facts, mainly the similar political and leadership system”.
Maaitah, a prolific writer, explained that the two countries have long taken a similar political approach on regional and international issues, including on Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. This includes the fight against terrorism and “nowadays drug trafficking (from Syria)”.
“Since a stable Jordan is in Saudi Arabia’s own interests, a strong Saudi Arabia is at the heart of Jordan’s interests. An ongoing Amman-Riyadh strategic partnership is a top priority and cannot be compromised or sacrificed. The leaders of both countries are fully aware of this and are acting accordingly.
Amer Sabaileh, a Jordanian strategic analyst and university professor, echoed Maaitah’s remarks, welcoming progress in relations and calling for stronger political cooperation and coordination.
Sabaileh told Arab News that Jordan must take a role in “Saudi Arabia’s new vision (2030) and its leaders’ ambitious plan for the whole region.”
“Saudi Arabia has a progressive and ambitious strategic vision for the entire Middle East region, and Jordan must urgently capitalize on the Saudi Crown Prince’s visit to Amman.”
“The constant cooperation and coordination between Jordan and Saudi Arabia serves the interests of the entire region,” he added.
Saudi Arabia is Jordan’s largest economic partner, with investments of over $13 billion. Trade between the two nations reached $5 billion in 2021.
According to the World Bank, Saudi Arabia is Jordan’s largest donor, having given its neighbor $3 billion in direct financial aid, or around 8% of Jordan’s GDP.
In April this year, Saudi Arabia sent $50 million in direct funding to Jordan, the fourth installment out of five that Riyadh has pledged to the country. According to the Saudi Press Agency, the aid was part of a 2018 deal between Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates to provide $2.5 billion in economic aid to Jordan.
The Saudi-Jordanian Investment Fund, backed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, recently signed an agreement with Jordan to invest $400 million in a health facility in the country.
The project has been described as the “highlight” of Saudi investment in Jordan.
During the signing ceremony, Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh stressed that the leaders of the two nations have a deep-rooted relationship and called for greater cooperation on all fronts.
Supporting this view, the Saudi Ambassador to Jordan, Naif bin Bandar Al-Sudairi, said the Kingdom was keen to strengthen its relations with Jordan.
SJIF Chairman Hisham Attar explained that the main objective of the fund is to contribute to economic growth in Jordan through long-term investments in key strategic sectors, reflecting the vision of the leaders of the two countries.
He also highlighted the goals of Saudi Vision 2030 and the strategy of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund to further promote economic integration. SJIF sought to become the most influential investor in Jordan.
SJIF and the Jordanian government, represented by the Jordan Investment Fund, signed a memorandum of understanding on June 16 that would allow SJIF to explore investments in the national railway network project.
This project involves the construction of a 418-kilometer rail line connecting the Aqaba container terminal to the Madouna land port in south Amman for the shipment of containers, phosphate, grain and automobiles, according to a press release from the SJIF.
In June 2021, SJIF announced a $15 million investment in leading Jordanian technology company OpenSooq, a mobile e-commerce application that enables consumer-to-consumer sales, as part of its growth investment strategy. capital.
The fund said at the time that the investment was aimed at strengthening the entrepreneurial environment in Jordan, which would support the development of local businesses and provide them with an opportunity for regional expansion.
In March this year, a bilateral deal that could be worth more than $1 billion was signed by business leaders from Makkah and Amman.
During the signing ceremony between the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and its counterpart in Amman, Jordanian Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply Yousef Mahmoud Al-Shamali said: “It is necessary to strengthen these relations to exceed the billion dollars, especially since Amman is proud of Saudi products, and Saudi investments are the largest in Jordan.
Jamal Shalabi, professor of political science at the Hashemite University of Jordan, explained that Saudi Arabia had shifted its economic cooperation with Jordan from “cash aid to direct investment in services and projects of infrastructure”.
“It’s very smart and more sustainable and it has a direct impact on creating jobs and accelerating economic growth,” he said at a ceremony marking the centenary of the Jordanian state. to college in April.
According to official figures, around 430,000 Jordanians work in Saudi Arabia.
Remittances sent from Saudi Arabia to Jordan increased by $16.4 million to $1.1 billion in the first four months of 2022, marking a 1.5% increase from the same period last year.
Data from the Central Bank of Jordan showed that these remittances amounted to $3.4 billion at the end of 2021. Most remittances from Jordanian expats come from Gulf countries, and Saudi Arabia in particular. .
An opinion poll conducted by the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan in March found that Jordanians consider an “institutionalized relationship with Saudi Arabia” a top priority for their country.
The poll also revealed that 37% of Jordanians see Saudi Arabia as their country’s biggest economic and political supporter, and the “closest neighbor both culturally and traditionally”.