Coping with Syria fallout: Turkey, Jordan show value of cooperation

Coping with Syria fallout: Turkey, Jordan show value of cooperation

Coping with Syria fallout: Turkey, Jordan show value of cooperation
Jordan's FM Ayman Safadi meets with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu at the foreign ministry in Amman. (File/AFP)
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Regional and international developments in the past decade have had significant effects on Turkey and Jordan, with the conflict on their doorsteps in Syria becoming their main cause for concern and for cooperation.
Jordan, a country known for its neutral regional policy, is not normally afforded much space in the Turkish media. However, recent high-level meetings between representatives of the two countries merit a closer look to better understand the course of bilateral relations in light of regional developments.
While the eyes of the world were mostly focused on Afghanistan in the past week, top officials from Turkey and Jordan met to discuss another lingering crisis on their doorsteps: The war in Syria.
During a two-day official visit to Amman, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu not only met his counterpart, Ayman Safadi, but also Jordan’s Prime Minister and Defense Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh and, most importantly, King Abdullah.
During a joint press conference with Safadi, Cavusoglu said that although the talks had covered a number of issues, including Libya, Palestine and Afghanistan, the Syrian crisis was top of the agenda. He added that Ankara and Amman will work closely together to help ensure Syrian refugees can return, voluntarily, to safe parts of their country.
Although one cannot argue that there is a history of strong cooperation between Turkey and Jordan on Syria, the fact remains that they are the countries most affected by the conflict. Jordan is hosting almost 2 million Syrians. Turkey has about twice as many, which is the biggest community of Syrian refugees in any host country.
Therefore, while Ankara and Amman are aware that a number of problems in the region might benefit from cooperation, first among them is Syria because of the heavy burden they both carry as a result of the war there. Safadi touched on this when he said this burden of hosting Syrian refugees cannot be allowed to fall only on the countries in the region. “The international community must assume its responsibility toward neighboring countries in order to provide adequate conditions for Syrian refugees,” he added.
Before his visit to Jordan, the Jordanian daily newspaper Al-Ghad published an Op-Ed by Cavusoglu titled, “Turkey-Jordan relations at a historical turning point.” It discussed the future of the two countries, their bilateral relationship and developments in the region.

While Ankara and Amman are aware that a number of problems in the region might benefit from cooperation, first among them is Syria because of the heavy burden they both carry as a result of the war there.

Sinem Cengiz

As well as noting that after more than a decade of civil war in Syria, Turkey and Jordan continue to be the countries most affected by the political and economic effects of the crisis, he said that finding a solution and ensuring the safe, voluntary return of refugees is a shared priority for both countries.
Providing for the needs of the refugees has put Jordan, a country struggling to maintain the stability of its economy, in a tough position and has had a substantial effect on Jordanian society. The massive influx of refugees has sparked public disturbances there, as it has in Turkey, causing humanitarian, political, economic, and sociocultural challenges for both governments. Needless to say, hosting such large numbers of refugees has disquieting effects on the relationship between them and their host communities.
But while the internal situations in Jordan and Turkey are similar, there are some notable differences in their policies on Syria.
Turkey has shut down all channels of communication with the Syrian regime whereas Jordan has, in recent months, started to make fresh approaches to its northern neighbor. Its attempts to reengage with Damascus are nothing new; concerns about securing its borders and the desire to play a key role in shaping post-war Syria are driving the most recent reconciliation attempts.
Aside from Syria, Turkey and Jordan have several other issues to address, such as events in the eastern Mediterranean. Amman has close and friendly relations with a number of countries Ankara is at odds with.
Importantly, Jordan’s location at the center of the current conflicts in the region means that it remains a key force in the prospects for regional stability. It is a relatively small nation but its role in the region is far from negligible and it has a crucial part to play in the fight against regional threats.
It is therefore important for Turkey to pursue closer ties with Jordan, despite some ideological and regional differences of opinion. Similarly, it is important for Jordan to cooperate with Turkey in facing regional challenges. That is why their foreign ministers agreed during their meeting that the stability of their countries is of great importance and levels of cooperation should be enhanced.
To this end, Jordan and Turkey have agreed to boost economic cooperation, and Safadi said they will develop a road map to identify the priorities that can best help achieve this.
Both nations appear to realize, therefore, that they are better off working together to address the common challenges they face in a troubled region. The leaders there are beginning to understand that counting on security guarantees by great powers does not work anymore, and so forming a regional security architecture that involves all local actors is now crucial.

  • Sinem Cengiz is a Turkish political analyst who specializes in Turkey’s relations with the Middle East. Twitter: @SinemCngz
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