Jordan science facility to promote research ties between Mideast countries

The vast white building is home to a synchrotron, a particle accelerator that acts as a powerful microscope. (Photo courtesy: sesame.org.jo)
Updated 16 May 2017
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Jordan science facility to promote research ties between Mideast countries

DUBAI: An advanced research center to be shared by scientists from countries with politically tense relations is set to open in Jordan today.
The facility is called Sesame — Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East – and will be used by researchers from across the region, including Iranians, Israelis and Palestinians.
The facility’s name is a play on the famous phrase “Open Sesame” and implies the beginning of a new era of collaborative scientific research, the BBC reported Tuesday.
The vast white building is home to a synchrotron, a particle accelerator that acts as a powerful microscope by generating intense beams of light
There are about 60 synchrotrons in the world but this will be the first in the Middle East.
Located 35 kilometers north of the capital Amman, the facility is geared toward establishing advanced science in the region, according to Egyptian Dr. Gihan Kamel.
“We are not building a paradise, it’s not an ideal place… But we are creating something, we are giving hope for other people for other generations,” she told the BBC.
The opening ceremony is being attended by Jordanian, Cypriot, Egyptian, Iranian, Pakistani, Palestinian and Turkish delegations and by the heads of UNESCO, CERN and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
However, an Israeli Cabinet minister called off the long-planned visit to attend the ceremony following a spat between the countries over a deadly shooting in Jerusalem.
Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis said he was skipping the because of Jordan’s reaction to the killing of a Jordanian who stabbed an Israeli police officer.


Jordan’s PM appeals for more aid as most Syrian refugees set to stay

Updated 33 min 15 sec ago
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Jordan’s PM appeals for more aid as most Syrian refugees set to stay

  • Jordan PM says most refugees not returning yet
  • Amman says funding crucial to keep economy afloat

AMMAN: Jordan’s Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz appealed on Wednesday to major donors to continue multi-billion dollar funding for Syrian refugees in the kingdom, saying most of those who had fled the eight-year conflict had no intention of returning any time soon.
Razzaz told representatives of major Western donors, UN agencies and NGOs that relatively few refugees had gone back since Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s army last summer regained control of southern Syria, where most had fled from.
“The number of refugees that so far returned voluntarily is low and most have no intention of going back any time soon,” Razzaz told a meeting to launch a UN-funded government plan that earmarks $2.4 billion in funding needs for 2019.
Officials say only around 10,000 refugees out of a total estimated at 1.3 million had left since the two countries opened the vital Nassib-Jaber border crossing last October.
Razzaz echoed the UN view that unstable conditions inside Syria, where large-scale destruction, fear of retribution and military conscription has made many reluctant to return.
“We are now entering a new phase of the Syrian crisis, however the impact is still ongoing. The conditions for their return are not present,” Razzaz added.
The prime minister warned against donor fatigue in a protracted crisis where the needs of refugees and vulnerable Jordanians were largely unchanged.
Maintaining funding that covers education, health and crucial services for tens of thousands of Syrian refugees and local communities was crucial to ease rising pressures on the debt-burdened economy, he added.
“Aid helped Jordan in staying resilient in a difficult regional setting,” Razzaz said, adding the refugee burden had strained meagre resources such as water and electricity, with a donor shortfall covered from state finances.
Jordan is struggling to rein in record public debt of $40 billion, equivalent to 95 percent of gross domestic product, under a tough International Monetary Fund (IMF) austerity plan.
Major donors say more than $6 billion had been extended to Jordan since 2015, which economists credit for rejuvenating once sleepy northern border towns, while refugee entrepreneurship brought a pool of cheap labor and new skills, triggering a property boom and higher productivity.
The kingdom received around $1.6 billion last year alone.
“The level of funding to Jordan that still remains is exceptional in global comparison,” said UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Anders Pedersen, adding needs had evolved from the humanitarian aid required early in the conflict to development projects that benefit the economy.