Jordan's King Abdullah and Boris Johnson hold talks amid Iran tensions

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson greets King Abdullah II of Jordan outside 10 Downing Street in London on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 07 August 2019

Jordan's King Abdullah and Boris Johnson hold talks amid Iran tensions

  • The king and Johnson discussed Jordan’s role in 'maintaining regional stability'
  • Talks take place amid high tensions with Iran over attacks on shipping in the Arabian Gulf

LONDON: King Abdullah II of Jordan met the new British prime minister on Wednesday as the UK seeks to shore up relations with one of its strongest Arab allies amid heightened tensions with Iran. 

The meeting with Boris Johnson in London also came as the UK nears a crunch Brexit deadline with a withdrawal from the European Union without a deal increasingly likely. 

London is looking to secure and boost trade ties with markets away from Europe to soften the blow and Jordan is seen as a reliable, if small, trade partner. 

The king was greeted warmly by Johnson outside 10 Downing Street ahead of the talks and a working lunch.

 

 

“The leaders reflected on the close bilateral relationship and longstanding friendship between our countries,” a Downing Street spokesperson said. “The Prime Minister welcomed the King’s progress in delivering economic reforms and urged continued momentum.”

The king and Johnson also discussed Jordan’s role in “maintaining regional stability” and the kingdom’s hosting of Syrian refugees.

The Jordanian state news agency said the meeting would cover “the deep-rooted, strategic relations between Jordan and the UK, and current regional developments.”

Jordan also hopes to secure further investment for its fragile economy, which is going though tough austerity measures as part of an International Monetary Fund program.

In February, London hosted a conference attended by the king to boost investment in his country. During the event the UK increased its aid and support for Jordan.

But the escalating tensions with Iran in the Gulf, including the seizure of a British oil tanker last month, were expected to dominate discussions.

Yossi Mekelberg, professor of international relations at Regent’s University London and an associate fellow at Chatham House, said the situation with Iran was a high priority for both sides but that Jordan was often cautious and pragmatic when there is a major crisis.

“They (Jordan) wouldn’t like to see a deterioration in relations and a war in the Gulf, on the other hand, they are recognizing now that there is a real danger of this happening, there is danger of Iran developing nuclear weapons.

“I think Hezbollah and the Iranian forces on its doorsteps in Syria is another issue that doesn’t make Jordan very happy, it’s a cause of worry for Jordan to.”

The two nations were also expected to discuss the conflict between Israel and Palestine and a US peace plan, which has angered Palestinians and drawn consternation from Jordan.

“The king will probably point out to the prime minister that the current impasse is dangerous and it’s not going to last and this might affect the stability of the Hashemite Kingdom,” Mekelberg said.

The UK and Jordan have historic ties and the royal family is closely connected to the UK. The King’s mother was British and he studied at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

 


Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

Updated 3 min 24 sec ago

Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

  • A video emerged on social media showing actress Nadine Al-Rassi preparing to set fire to a car tire in downtown Beirut and crying inconsolably about her financial state
  • In a series of tweets, Lebanese recording artist Elissa, who is abroad, supported the protesters’ demands

BEIRUT: Lebanese celebrities joined thousands of protesters on the streets of Beirut on Saturday to voice their anger at the country’s ruling elite.
Singers, actors and playwrights were among a host of high-profile artists who backed demands for action over government corruption and to counter Lebanon’s spiralling economic crisis.
Beirut has been shrouded in smoke for three days following widespread protests and rioting over government tax plans.
A video emerged on social media showing actress Nadine Al-Rassi preparing to set fire to a car tire in downtown Beirut and crying inconsolably about her financial state.
The actress, wearing jeans and her face blackened, told protesters: “I am Nadine Al-Rassi. I was hungry for seven days. I have debts. Banque du Liban (Lebanon’s central bank) seized my house and I am unable to rent a home. Corrupt people should be held responsible.”


In a series of tweets, Lebanese recording artist Elissa, who is abroad, supported the protesters’ demands, saying: “This is the first time I wish I were in Lebanon. My heart is with you.”
In another tweet, the high-profile singer, one of the Middle East’s best-selling performers, said: “I proudly follow the news of Beirut and its citizens ... who are demanding a decent life. It is time for people to get back their dignity.”
Meanwhile, singer and composer Ragheb Alama expressed his dismay at a Council of Ministers plan to impose a daily fee on WhatsApp calls.
“The people’s misfortunes are not funny. Why don’t you tax the polluted air people breathe? It is a great idea that brings money to your fathers’ treasury, too,” he wrote.
Alama accused the Parliament of responsibility for the country’s dire economy: “Why do deputies receive money, privileges and overheads, and what have they done? They covered up for looting and stealing for decades. They are responsible for destroying the economy and the country.”
Nancy Ajram, one of the Arab world’s most popular singers, wrote on Twitter: “My heart goes out to my country every moment and with every heartbeat. We are a people who deserves to live and it is our right to live with dignity. May God protect Lebanon.”
Singer and actress Haifa Wehbe tweeted: “There is nothing better than the Lebanese people when they stand in unity and under one slogan, without any political affiliation. We are all for our country.”
Comedian and prime-time TV host Hisham Haddad was among celebrities who joined protesters at Riad El-Solh Square, near the Prime Minister’s office, site of the biggest centralized demonstrations.
Actress Maguy Bou Ghosn, singer Moeen Shreif, actors Abdo Chahine, Badih Abou Chakra and Junaid Zeineldine, playwright Ziad Itani and musician Ziyad Sahhab also joined the protests.
Actor Wissam Hanna called on Twitter for protesters to close the Beirut Airport road to stop corrupt officials fleeing the country.
“I am all for closing down the airport road to stop thieves from fleeing. I am all for recovering stolen funds. Lebanon rises, revolts and it is time to hold them accountable,” he wrote.
Actress Gretta Aoun said: “We have to take to the streets. They must know the extent of our pain.”