AMMAN: Saudi Arabia’s longstanding relationship with Jordan is a story in which the two kingdoms have become a “model” for regional and pan-Arab cooperation, which experts say will be bolstered by several new initiatives on the political and economic fronts.
Ahead of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s upcoming visit to Jordan, observers point to the long shared history, similar culture and values of both peoples, which have affected diplomatic relations.
“Diplomacy is not the right word to describe relations between Amman and Riyadh. It’s about history, geography, politics and common interests,” said Samih Maaitah, Jordan’s former minister of media affairs.
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Speaking to Arab News, Maaitah explained that the two nations have become a “model” for regional cooperation and coordination thanks to “a number of facts, chief among which is the similar political and ruling system.”
Maaitah, a prolific writer, explained that the two countries have long shared a similar political approach to regional and international issues, including Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. This includes fighting terrorism and “nowadays illegal drug trafficking (from Syria)”.
“Since a stable Jordan is in Saudi Arabia’s absolute interest, a strong Saudi Arabia is at the heart of Jordanian interests. An enduring strategic partnership between Amman and Riyadh is a top priority and must not be compromised or sacrificed. The leaders of both countries are fully aware of this and are acting accordingly.”
Amer Sabaileh, a Jordanian strategic analyst and university professor, echoed Maaitah’s comments, welcoming the progress of the relationship and calling for greater political cooperation and coordination.
Sabaileh told Arab News that Jordan must play a role in “Saudi Arabia’s new vision (2030) and its leaders’ ambitious plan for the entire region.”
“Saudi Arabia has a progressive and ambitious strategic vision for the entire Middle East region and Jordan urgently needs to capitalize on the Saudi Crown Prince’s visit to Amman.”
“Ongoing Jordanian-Saudi cooperation and coordination serves the interests of the entire region,” he added.
— SPAENG (@Spa_Eng) June 21, 2022
Saudi Arabia is Jordan’s largest economic partner with investments exceeding $13 billion. Trade between the two nations reached $5 billion in 2021.
According to the World Bank, Saudi Arabia is Jordan’s largest donor, having given its neighbor $3 billion in direct financial assistance, or around 8 percent of Jordan’s GDP.
In April of this year, Saudi Arabia sent $50 million in direct funding to Jordan, the fourth of five installments Riyadh had pledged to the country. According to the Saudi Press Agency, that aid was part of a 2018 deal between Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates to provide Jordan with a $2.5 billion economic aid package.
The Saudi-Jordanian Investment Fund, backed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, recently signed an agreement with Jordan to invest US$400 million in a healthcare facility in the country.
The project has been described as the “high point” of Saudi investment in Jordan.
During the signing ceremony, Jordan’s Prime Minister Hir Khasawneh stressed the deep-rooted ties between the leaders of the two nations and urged greater cooperation on all fronts.
The Saudi ambassador to Jordan, Naif bin Bandar Al-Sudairi, supported this view and said that the kingdom is keen to improve its relations with Jordan.
SJIF Chairman Hisham Attar explained that the fund’s main objective is to contribute to economic growth in Jordan through long-term investments in key strategic sectors, reflecting the vision of the leaders of the two countries.
He also highlighted the goals of the Saudi Vision 2030 and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia’s strategy to further promote economic integration. The SJIF wanted to become the most influential investor in Jordan.
SJIF and the Jordanian government, represented by the Jordan Investment Fund, signed a memorandum of understanding on June 16 that would allow SJIF to consider investing in the National Railway Network Project.
According to an SJIF statement, this project involves the construction of a 418-kilometer railway line connecting the Aqaba Container Terminal with the land port of Madouna in southern Amman to transport containers, phosphate, grain and automobiles.
In June 2021, as part of its capital growth investment strategy, SJIF announced a $15 million investment in leading Jordanian technology company OpenSooq, a mobile e-commerce app enabling consumer-to-consumer sales.
The fund said at the time that the investment aimed to strengthen the entrepreneurial environment in Jordan, which would support the development of local businesses and provide them with an opportunity for regional expansion.
In March this year, a bilateral deal worth over $1 billion was signed by business leaders from Mecca and Amman.
At the signing ceremony between the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and its Amman counterpart, Jordanian Minister of Industry, Trade and Utilities Yousef Mahmoud Al-Shamali said: “It is necessary to strengthen these ties in order to exceed $1 billion , especially since Amman is proud of Saudi products and Saudi investments are the most important in Jordan.”
Jamal Shalabi, a political science professor at the Hashemite University of Jordan, said Saudi Arabia has shifted its economic cooperation with Jordan from “cash support to direct investment in services and infrastructure projects.”
“It’s very smart and more sustainable, and it has a direct impact on creating jobs and accelerating economic growth,” he said during a university celebration of the Jordanian state’s centenary in April.
According to official figures, around 430,000 Jordanians work in Saudi Arabia.
Remittances from Saudi Arabia to Jordan grew by $16.4 million to $1.1 billion in the first four months of 2022, up 1.5 percent from the same period last year .
Data from the Central Bank of Jordan showed that these remittances totaled $3.4 billion at the end of 2021. Most of the remittances from Jordanian expatriates come from the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia in particular.
An opinion poll conducted by the University of Jordan’s Center for Strategic Studies in March found that Jordanians see an “institutionalized relationship with Saudi Arabia” as their country’s top priority.
The poll also found that 37 percent of Jordanians see Saudi Arabia as their country’s biggest economic and political supporter and their “nearest neighbor both culturally and traditionally.”