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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Arab nations must provide a unified front for regional stability

Countries of this region meeting in solidarity can help Jordan manage its current crisis

A protester holds a Jordanian national flag as security forces stand guard during celebrations of the withdrawal of a controversial tax reform, in Amman, Jordan. Andre Pain / EPA
A protester holds a Jordanian national flag as security forces stand guard during celebrations of the withdrawal of a controversial tax reform, in Amman, Jordan. Andre Pain / EPA

Today this region has polarised into two blocs: on one side sit the likes of Qatar and Iran, motivated by selfishness and seeking to sow discord; on the other reign the forces of unity and stability. The latter bloc will gather today to assist Jordan, which is coping with the strain of a political and economic crisis. Jordan’s King Abdullah will meet leaders of the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in Makkah to discuss ways to help Jordan emerge from its current economic plight. The Gulf summit follows the inaugural meeting of the UAE-Saudi Coordination Council last week. In an exclusive interview with The National last week, Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, spoke of the need to create a moderate "Arab centre" to counter rhetoric from those who seek to create conflict and divisions. No country in the region can go it alone. It requires unity and solidarity to steer that centre on the path to peace and unanimity. Today, Arab nations stand firm with Jordan, traditionally one of the region’s most stable nations and home to millions of refugees from Palestine and Syria, now in need of support at a time of upheaval.

Change is afoot in Jordan following an economic downturn characterised by spiralling debt, rising unemployment and endemic corruption. Incoming prime minister Omar Al Razzaz, a former World Bank economist, last week withdrew a controversial income tax bill that had triggered mass protests but that alone will not bring Jordan’s crisis to a swift conclusion. Mr Al Razzaz must fulfil stringent debt reduction requirements from the International Monetary Fund – in accordance with a $750 million loan signed in 2016 – while placating a disaffected population tired of austerity.

It is not yet clear what form the support to Jordan will take but it sets a welcome precedent of a unified front among Arab nations amid a deeply fractured geopolitical landscape, marred by the US’s ruinous decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and Russia’s ongoing support for Bashar Al Assad in concert with Iran. Attaining the region’s objectives is in the hands of Arab states; as Mr Gargash said: "We have to be more responsible for our fate". There is plenty of work to be done. The UN General Assembly will meet next week to vote on an Arab-backed resolution condemning Israel’s brutality in Gaza after yet more killings. Meanwhile conflict continues to rage in Syria, Yemen and beyond. It is down to those whose roots go deep in the Middle East to extend the branches of stability to their neighbours.

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