Turkey and Jordan united by regional crises
On the invitation of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Jordan’s King Abdullah paid a two-day visit to Turkey last weekend to discuss economic, military, cultural and political relations, as well as cooperation between the two countries.
The two leaders, along with their respective spouses, first met over dinner at the Tarabya Presidential Campus in Istanbul. On Sunday, the Erdogans had breakfast with the royal couple followed by a closed-door meeting at the Vahdettin Pavilion overlooking the Bosporus. During the visit, which took place in a warm atmosphere, several issues ranging from Palestine and the status of Jerusalem to Syria, Iraq and other regional developments were discussed, according to official statements. Needless to say, these are general statements that are often released following meetings between foreign leaders. In order to better understand the visit of King Abdullah to Turkey, it is important to look at recent developments in this politically fragile region.
The regional and international developments of the past decade have significantly affected both Turkey and Jordan. During the Arab uprisings, which changed the course of Middle Eastern history, Ankara and Amman found themselves on the same page due to the security threats emanating from the conflict in Syria — an immediate neighbor for both.
Jordan in particular stands at the center of the current regional conflicts, and it remains an essential country for the prospects of stability. It is a relatively small country, but its role in the region is far from negligible as it is a crucial actor in the fight against regional threats. The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt met with their Jordanian counterpart in Jordan only last week, when they discussed the region’s crises and the ways they can cooperate to overcome them. A day before these talks, King Abdullah hosted the foreign diplomats in a separate meeting.
Both Ankara and Amman are aware there are several problems in the region that necessitate cooperation. First among them is Syria, where the two countries carry the heavy burden of war taking place on their doorstep. Though one cannot say there is strong cooperation between Turkey and Jordan on Syria, the fact is that they are the two countries most affected by the crisis. Jordan currently hosts almost 2 million Syrians, while Turkey has about double that figure, making it the largest host country for Syrian refugees.
The Palestine issue is something that cannot be ignored in Amman’s regional strategic calculations.
The vacuum that will be created by the US withdrawal from Syria is a common concern for all neighbors of Syria. King Abdullah’s visit came in the wake of Erdogan’s remarks that Turkey has maintained low-level contact with the Syrian regime through its spy agency. It also came at a time when Ankara decided to appoint a special representative to specifically handle the Syrian dossier at the Foreign Ministry, and after it had closed ranks with Russia over Syria’s constitutional committee.
Palestine, the increasing Iranian role in the region and instability in Iraq are the other issues of common concern regarding regional stability and security. Like many Western allies in the region, both Turkey and Jordan consider the rising Iranian influence to be problematic.
With regard to Palestine, the two countries are mostly on the same page. Both Ankara and Amman share a mutual stance in opposition to US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, and both seek the end of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through peaceful means.
For Turkey, the Palestinian cause is something far beyond any foreign policy issue and is different from any other Middle Eastern problem. This is due to the deep historical and ideological dimensions of the matter in the eyes of the Turkish people. Thus, Ankara’s Palestinian policy reflects the pulse of domestic politics and societal balances. The same applies to Jordan, as there are large numbers of Palestinian refugees who hold full Jordanian citizenship. Moreover, King Abdullah is officially the custodian of Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. The Palestine issue is something that cannot be ignored in Amman’s regional strategic calculations.
In this regard, the Erdogan-King Abdullah meeting was crucial, as it provided a chance for both sides to once more highlight their concerns with the current developments in the region and discuss areas of cooperation. Amid the visit by the Jordanian king, meetings between ambassadors and officials of the two countries took place separately in Ankara and Amman. These meetings indicate that both countries seek to shape their foreign policies on mutual concerns, while also considering several areas of cooperation.
- Sinem Cengiz is a Turkish political analyst who specializes in Turkey’s relations with the Middle East. Twitter: @SinemCngz