x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Saudi praised for Lebanon initiative

Ending his tour of the region in Jordan, King Abdullah furthered discussion on co-ordinating the push resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with a two-state solution, seen as key to achieving normalcy in region.

Jordan's King Abdullah, right, with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Amman.
Jordan's King Abdullah, right, with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Amman.

AMMAN // Jordan threw its support behind Saudi Arabia yesterday in trying to maintain calm in Lebanon as the two countries agreed that a resolution in the Arab-Israeli conflict is key to achieving regional peace and security.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who arrived in Jordan on Friday, concluded his regional tour of Arab countries there yesterday. He briefed the king of Jordan on the outcome of his visits to Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, where he tried to calm tensions that emerged around the possible indictments of Syria's allies - including members of Hizbollah- in the 2005 murder of Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister of Lebanon.

"Jordan is highly appreciative of his efforts in Lebanon in trying to maintain calm and ensuring that all parties resort to their constitutional organisations to resolve their differences," Ayman Safadi, an adviser to King Abdullah of Jordan, said. The Saudi king's visit to Jordan is the second in three years and comes as the Arab League agreed in principle last week for the Palestinians to restart direct talks with Israel that broke off in 2008 provided there be an agenda including assurances of the creation of a future Palestinian state.

In the Jordanian-Saudi summit yesterday, officials said the two leaders discussed means of co-ordination to push for the two-state solution, key to achieving peace and security in the region. "Both leaders discussed issues of mutual interest and particularly the Arab-Israeli conflict. The focus is very clear and the priority is to get action on the ground towards a two-state solution that guarantees the Palestinians' right to a state living side by side with Israel," Mr Safadi said. "They also reviewed efforts taken to overcome the obstacles towards achieving progress in the peace efforts in the region."

The Saudi king, the driving force behind the Arab initiative for a Palestinian state, which was first launched in 2002 at a Beirut summit when he was his country's crown prince, has political clout in the region, especially with Sunni rulers and politicians. "We believe that the Saudi king has a tremendous weight in the Arab world," Mr Safadi said. "His attempts to maintain Arab co-ordination and address some of the challenges are appreciated and needed at this point.

"The resolution to the Arab-Israel conflict is key to regional stability within a comprehensive framework in accordance with the Arab initiative." But for Jordan, a country that has been struggling with a staggering budget deficit of 1.1 billion dinars, or nearly 7 per cent of its gross domestic product, it is the economic aid that matters most from the Saudi king's visit, critics said. "The political file is marginal in comparison with the economic aid that Jordan is seeking to obtain from the Saudis," said Fahed Kheitan, a political analyst and editor with Arab Al Yawm, an independent daily based in Amman. Jordan hopes that Saudi Arabia will double its financial aid to Jordan.

"That is the most important thing," said Mr Kheitan. "This year it received 200 million dinars and it has been promised to receive more than 400 million dinars, therefore Jordan is banking to obtain additional grants. Although officials do not discuss that in public, they are optimistic." Labib Kamhawi, an independent political analyst, added: "Politically Jordan would like to be enlisted as one of the active participants in the regional problems, but Jordan is the least significant leg of King Abdullah's tour to the region. Still, it would like to be in on the political map of the region. But it is the economic dimension that matters from this visit. The country is facing tough times as a result of the budget deficit."