LONDON: Britain on Thursday doubled its bilateral support funding to Jordan, pledging £650 million ($860 million) over five years.
The UK government hosted a ministerial conference to promote growth and investment opportunities in Jordan, inviting a host of senior financial representatives, non-profit organizations and several business and economic delegations from around the world.
The conference fulfills a pledge by Prime Minister Theresa May in 2017 to encourage the partnership between the United Kingdom and Jordan, according to the UK Minister of State for the Middle East.
“This has been a really good conference and we are very pleased to hold it here because London is a great place to bring people together. We’ve had very high level representation, senior foreign ministers, from not only the region but all over the world,” Alistair Burt told Arab News.
Among the attendees were King Abdullah II, May and her Jordanian counterpart Omar Razzaz.
Over the next five years the UK’s bilateral support to Jordan includes a new £50 million contribution to the World Bank’s Global Concessional Financing Facility, the UK’s Department for International Development said.
This will include grant-financing to enable Jordan to undertake key economic reforms and will go toward a youth, technology and jobs program with a focus on jobs and business opportunities for Syrian refugees.
It will also include a £14 million contribution to a new World Bank led trust fund for Jordan aimed at modernizing government systems, promoting exports and making doing business easier.
In addition, the UK will underwrite a $250 million World Bank loan to Jordan.
Over the last five years, the UK’s support was around £300 million to Jordan.
“The conference was designed to showcase how Jordan can demonstrate how its meeting its economic challenges, the reforms it was putting in place, and what it offered to private investors, as well as people who wanted to take part in infrastructure projects and we think it’s fulfilling all those objectives,” Burt said.
“We had the chief executive of Jaguar and Land Rover, a major world company, saying we are investing in Jordan.
“And of course business talks to business, a minister telling businesses to invest might not have consequences, but it’s different if a business is saying we can invest here, and we can provide more for the people of Jordan both in education terms and employment terms.”
Burt also discussed some of the key issues effecting the region and relations with Saudi Arabia.
Asked whether the British government was lobbying Germany to reverse an arms embargo that was placed on Saudi Arabia, Burt said his colleagues are talking to their German counterparts about the issue and that the UK recognizes its strategic defensive relationship with the Kingdom.
“This means that we continue to support our partner and there are some impacts of the German situation,” Burt said.
“We are extremely conscious of the impact of a decision by a sovereign country and a partner country and relations to the arms embargo, we take a different view of course, we have very strict export controls.”
He said Saudi Arabia had been generous in its support for Jordan and the humanitarian needs in Yemen.
The minister said he visited Riyadh a couple of weeks ago and again the importance of that relation was evidently clear.
Asked whether the British government was concerned over the aspects of the Trump administration’s deferred Middle East peace plan, Burt said: “At first, like everyone else, we need to see what the plan actually is.
“The United Kingdom is certainly in no better position than anyone else to know any of the details. We have expressed our concern about unilateral decisions taken by the United States in relation to Jerusalem and refugees and we have made it very clear this is not our position.
“We remain of the view that the Middle East peace process is fundamental to world politics.”
Regarding the issue of Shamima Begum, the teenager who fled the UK to join Daesh, and is now in a refugee camp in Syria, Burt said the legal position of her situation will be resolved in due course.
“There is very strong feeling in the United Kingdom in relation to what she has done,” he said.