Jordanian Cabinet resigns ahead of government reshuffle

Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz meets with member of Union leaders in Amman, on June 7, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 08 May 2019

Jordanian Cabinet resigns ahead of government reshuffle

  • Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz on Wednesday asked ministers to submit their resignations in preparation for a cabinet reshuffle
  • Al-Razzaz said that the reshuffle aims to contribute toward efforts overcoming the challenges and achieving the priorities and plans of the government

AMMAN: The entire Jordanian Cabinet resigned on Wednesday, signaling a major government reshuffle.

The official Jordanian news agency, Petra, said that Prime Minister Omar Razzaz “asked his ministerial team to submit their resignations in preparation for a Cabinet reshuffle in the coming days.”

According to Petra, Razzaz stressed: “The reshuffle comes in line with the requirements to address challenges and achieve the government's priorities and plans.”

Mamdouh Abadi, a former deputy prime minister, told Arab News that the idea of mass resignations has become part of the norm in Jordanian politics. “Ever since the 1980s, when a particular minister refuses to resign in a small reshuffle, all Jordanian Cabinet members present their resignations en masse, allowing the prime minister to decide who to keep and whose resignation to accept.”

Hassan Barari, a professor of international relations at the University of Jordan, said that the individuals who will change are unknown, but that: “The aim of this reshuffle is internal, not external. Razzaz wants to address some pressing domestic issues and he feels handicapped by some ministers not delivering what is needed.”

Barari added: “There is no change in politics or policy, the only explanation I can see in this reshuffle is internal.”

The Cabinet reshuffle is taking place after important personnel changes occurred in the royal court and the general intelligence directorate. It also comes before the expected announcement of the US-Middle East Plan, although most experts do not expect the change to affect Jordanian policy or positions.

Last week, the Jordanian royal court made important changes among several officials in sensitive and senior positions. Bisher Khasawneh became the senior official at court, while Manar Dabas, the director of the King’s office, has become a special advisor.

One of the major changes made by King Abdullah was the replacement of the director of the General Intelligence Department, General Adnan Al-Jundi, who held one of the most influential positions in the country. The palace issued a statement saying the king had decided to retire Al-Jundi and replace him with Gen. Ahmed Husni, who has served in several senior intelligence posts.

Jordan is going through a difficult economic period with unemployment at high rates due in part to a large young population and a lack of private sector jobs. The country’s public sector is bloated, and national debt is rising. A year ago, 40 days of protests against a controversial income tax law brought in liberal-minded Harvard University graduate Razzaz, but he has had a hard time producing change.

It is not clear when the reshuffle will be completed and the newly established Cabinet will be sworn in. Most analysts expect it to take place within 48 hours of the resignations, and after consultations with the king.

Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

Updated 21 May 2019

Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

  • Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Lebanon insists that the area lies within its economic zone and refuses to give up a single part of it

BEIRUT: Lebanon has hinted that progress is being made in efforts to resolve its maritime border dispute with Israel following the return of a US mediator from talks with Israeli officials.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield returned to Lebanon following talks in Israel where he outlined Lebanese demands regarding the disputed area and the mechanism to reach a settlement.

The US mediator has signaled a new push to resolve the dispute after meetings with both Lebanese and Israeli officials.

Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to begin offshore oil and gas production in the offshore Block 9 as it grapples with an economic crisis.

A source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who met with Satterfield on Monday after his return to Lebanon, told Arab News that “there is progress in the efforts, but the discussion is not yet over.” He did not provide further details.

Sources close to the Lebanese presidency confirmed that Lebanon is counting on the US to help solve the demarcation dispute and would like to accelerate the process to allow exploration for oil and gas to begin in the disputed area.

Companies that will handle the exploration require stability in the area before they start working, the sources said.

Previous efforts by Satterfield to end the dispute failed in 2012 and again last year after Lebanon rejected a proposal by US diplomat Frederick Hoff that offered 65 percent of the disputed area to Lebanon and 35 percent to Israel. Lebanon insisted that the area lies within its economic zone and refused to give up a single part of it.

Satterfield has acknowledged Lebanon’s ownership of around 500 sq km of the disputed 850 sq km area.

Lebanon renewed its commitment to a mechanism for setting the negotiations in motion, including the formation of a tripartite committee with representatives of Lebanon, Israel and the UN, in addition to the participation of the US mediator. Beirut also repeated its refusal to negotiate directly with Israel.

Two months ago, Lebanon launched a marine environmental survey in blocks 4 and 9 in Lebanese waters to allow a consortium of French, Italian and Russian companies to begin oil and gas exploration in the area.