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Jordan visit: Erdogan in new push for Syria peace

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan talks to supporters after attending Friday prayers in Istanbul. (AP)
ANKARA: The conflict in Syria will top the agenda when the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives in Jordan on Monday for an official visit at the invitation of King Abdallah.
Jordan and Turkey host millions of Syrian refugees, and take part in regional and international efforts to end the crisis. Jordan supports Turkey’s initiatives to co-broker a cease-fire in Syria through negotiations in the Kazakh capital, Astana. The two countries are also involved in the US-led anti-Daesh coalition in Syria and Iraq.
The two leaders “will discuss the situation in the region, especially in Syria, Iraq and Palestine, during his visit,” Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said. “This visit is important in terms of foreign policy perspective.”
Erdogan will continue with trips to Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and the US in September. The flurry of Turkish diplomatic activity suggests closer cooperation between Turkey, Iran and Russia in Syria, said Gonul Tol, director of the Center for Turkish Studies at the Middle East Institute in Washington.
“Jordan has played an important role in the Syrian conflict and lately has been a party to the de-escalation agreement in southern Syria,” she said. “Jordan and Russia have also worked closely in Syria, sharing intelligence and carrying out military aircraft missions.”
Tol said Erdogan’s visit to Jordan was part of that Syria diplomacy, and that Turkey and Jordan might seek ways to tackle challenges in the post-Daesh Iraq.
“Jordan also plays an important role in Iraq. Now that the defeat of Daesh in Iraq is seen as imminent, Iraq depends on Jordan to ensure Iraq’s primary gateway to the world remains open,” she said.
Erdogan’s visit also coincides with the 70th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries, which date to 1947.
The president will be followed to Amman by US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who will travel to Jordan and then to Turkey later this month, the Pentagon said on Friday.
Sharing borders with Syria and Iraq, the Syrian conflict and the advance of militants in the region push Turkey and Jordan to further cooperate because of their internal security calculations.
Turkey and Jordan recently reacted against Israeli restrictions on Palestinians over Al-Aqsa Mosque, and called for the de-escalation of the situation. King Abdallah and Erdogan spoke by telephone on June 24 specifically about the latest developments at Al-Aqsa, and agreed to cooperate on the resolution of the conflict.
Nimrod Goren, head of Mitvim — the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies — said that because Jordan had a formal special status in Jerusalem, it often played a major role in calming the situation between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Jordan did so last month, but this time Turkey also tried to build on its recent efforts to gain influence in East Jerusalem,” Goren said. “While Jordan convened the foreign ministers of the Arab League, Turkey initiated a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.”
Now, with the crisis over, the two countries may be trying to draw lessons. “King Abdallah already visited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and may now be trying to agree on future rules of engagement with Erdogan,” he said. “The Turkish president, on the other hand, is in the midst of regional meetings, with parties who are often at odds with each other — ranging from the Gulf, to Iran, and now Jordan.”
Goren said Turkey was trying to navigate its way in the changing Middle East, which now had several crises, each of which created a different coalition. “Many in Israel are worried by the recent rapprochement between Turkey and Iran, and attribute this to an emerging anti-Israeli axis. Erdogan’s visit to Jordan — a moderate regional actor with peaceful relations with Israel — should lessen such concerns,” he said.
Developing trade and increasing investments are also on the agenda during Erdogan’s visit. Turkey and Jordan enjoy increasing bilateral trade, which has reached $1 billion a year.

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