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

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.”

Lebanon bank deposits up 4% on year

Updated 3 min 36 sec ago

Lebanon bank deposits up 4% on year

BEIRUT: Bank deposits in Lebanon have risen by 4 percent on the year, Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said on Thursday, and he maintained his economic growth outlook for 2018 at 2 percent.

In July Salameh had said he expected bank deposits to grow by more than 5 percent in 2018.

In October the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) halved their growth outlook to one percent for Lebanon, where public debt is about 150 percent of gross domestic product.

“Lebanese banks have succeeded in maintaining foreign exchange inflows into their sector supported by (the central bank),” Salmeh said in a televised speech at a Beirut economic conference.

With growth low and traditional sources of foreign exchange — tourism, real estate and foreign investment — undermined by years of regional tension, Lebanon increasingly relies on dollars expatriate Lebanese deposit in local banks.

The banks buy government debt, which finances the country’s eye-watering public debt and twin deficits.

The central bank also brings in dollars through complex financial operations with local banks to boost foreign currency reserves needed to defend the Lebanese pound’s peg to the dollar.

However, deposits have been growing at a slower rate since war broke out in neighboring Syria in 2011, and deposit growth rates are closely watched.