US vice president given lukewarm welcome in Amman

King Abdallah of Jordan and Queen Rania hold talks with US Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence in Amman on Sunday. (AP)
Updated 21 January 2018
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US vice president given lukewarm welcome in Amman

AMMAN: US Vice President Mike Pence received a lukewarm welcome in the Jordanian capital despite the strong relationship between Amman and Washington.
Pence’s visit, which was supposed to take place after US President Donald Trump had declared US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, had been postponed twice. It was reduced to a meeting with King Abdullah II and no other announced official or unofficial meeting.
The US vice president was received by the governor and mayor of Amman.
Earlier talk about Pence wanting to address the issues of Christians in the Middle East appears to have been scrapped after the Palestinian president and regional Christian leaders announced that they will boycott the visiting American official.
In their meeting, the US vice president praised Jordanian-US relations. “We are here as partners for security. We are here as partners for both our nations’ prosperity. We are here as friends,” Pence said in the meeting at Al-Husseiniya Palace, according to an official statement from the Jordanian Royal Court.
King Abdullah reiterated the known Jordanian principles, especially those “continuously voiced over the past year.”
The King reflected his concerns that the US decision on Jerusalem was not the result of a comprehensive settlement to the Palestine-Israel conflict: “Jerusalem is key to Muslims and Christians as it is to Jews. It is key to peace in the region. And key to enabling Muslims to effectively fight some of the root causes of radicalization.”
US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt also added his praise to relations with Jordan. “It was a privilege to join an important bilateral meeting between @VP and @KingAbdullahII of Jordan. Jordan is a key ally — an excellent partner for America!” Greenblatt said on his Twitter account.
Labib Kamhawi, a Jordanian political analyst, told Arab News that the shortened visit reflects a kind of stalemate between both sides: “It is clear that in their public positions neither Jordan or the US will deviate from the known positions on the peace process and Jerusalem.”
Kamhawi, however, said he worries that what happens behind closed doors could spell retraction. “The amount of pressure that will be placed on Jordan might be too difficult for this small country to bear.”
There were protests on Saturday night when Pence arrived in Amman by left-wing and pan-Arab movements who joined the daily evening demonstrations across the street from the US embassy in Amman.
Protests have taken place every evening since the Dec. 6 Jerusalem announcement by Trump.
Abla Abu Elba, head of the left-wing Jordanian People’s Party, told demonstrators that Jordanians oppose a visit that aims to cement the latest US positions: “I hope that the official position will stay steady because any retraction will mean that the country will suffer a lot from the American decision regarding Jerusalem.”
The Islamic Action Front in Jordan also joined those opposing the visit after a meeting of its executive committee. It said: “The US decision on Jerusalem reflects an act of international political bullying. The US is a partner in the crimes of the occupiers against the Palestinian people and it conspires against Jordan and its sovereignty and role as guardian of the holy places in Jerusalem.”


Turkey tells US not to leave power vacuum in Syria withdrawal

Updated 37 min 18 sec ago
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Turkey tells US not to leave power vacuum in Syria withdrawal

  • ‘We reminded our partners that there should be no vacuum of power in any way during the withdrawal’
  • Trump had ordered the withdrawal of all 2,000 US troops Syria in December after saying they had defeated Daesh militants in Syria

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s defense minister told Pentagon officials there must not be a vacuum of power during the withdrawal of US forces from Syria, state-owned Anadolu news agency reported on Saturday.
A senior US administration official said on Friday Washington would leave about 400 US troops split between two Syrian regions, a reversal by President Donald Trump that could pave the way for US allies to keep troops in Syria.
“We reminded our partners that there should be no vacuum of power in any way during the withdrawal,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told Anadolu, describing his talks in the United States with acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
Trump had ordered the withdrawal of all 2,000 US troops in December after saying they had defeated Daesh militants in Syria. The abrupt decision sparked an outcry from allies and US lawmakers.
But he was persuaded on Thursday that about 200 US troops would join what is expected to be a total commitment of some 800 to 1,500 troops from European allies to set up and observe a “safe zone” in northeastern Syria, the US administration official said.
Akar also said he repeated call for Kurdish YPG militia fighters, which Ankara regards as terrorists, to be removed from the “safe zone,” which Turkey wants to control.