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Mohammed bin Salman's visit to Jordan seals a new stage in Riyadh-Amman relations

The Hashemite Kingdom and Saudi Arabia consolidate rapprochement after years of tensions
Mohammed bin Salman

PHOTO/FILE  -   Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman makes a regional trip to strengthen alliances ahead of US President Joe Biden's visit to the Middle East.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's regional tour continues. After visiting Egypt, where he signed 14 agreements worth $7.7 billion with President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, Saudi Arabia's de facto leader has travelled to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah. 

The Jordanian monarch and his son received Bin Salman at Queen Alia International Airport, where, after landing and during the welcoming ceremony, both national anthems were played and 21 artillery rounds were fired, according to the Jordan News Agency.

Afterwards, King Abdullah II presented the Saudi prince with the Hussein bin Ali necklace, "an embodiment of the distinguished historical relations that bind the two countries" and which Jordan bestows on kings, princes and heads of state, according to the Saudi channel Al Ekhbariya.

The Jordanian monarch and the Saudi crown prince also held a meeting at the Al Husseiniya Palace in which they reaffirmed their "pride in the level of fraternal, historical and well-established relations that unite the two brotherly kingdoms and peoples", as well as "their eagerness to consolidate them in all fields", according to the Jordanian news agency. The two leaders also discussed the latest regional and international developments, stressing the Palestinian issue and support for the "Palestinian brothers". 

Abdullah II stressed Saudi Arabia's "central role" in matters related to Arab and Islamic nations to achieve "peace in the region and in the world". "Saudi Arabia's security is part of Jordan's and the region's security," he added.

Opportunities for Jordan's economy 

Bin Salman's first visit to Jordan after several years of tensions between Riyadh and Amman comes at a time when the Hashemite Kingdom's economy is struggling with the consequences of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. As a result, many Jordanian analysts and business leaders see the Saudi crown prince's visit as an opportunity to improve the national economic situation.

As Reuters points out, Jordanian officials expect Bin Salman to unlock at least $3 billion in investment projects that Saudi Arabia has promised in recent years but which have yet to materialise. Indeed, a senior Jordanian official revealed to the news agency that Riyadh's Public Investment Fund (PIF) is considering investing billions of dollars in mega infrastructure projects in Jordan, including an estimated $2.5 billion railway project

These claims were backed up by a statement from the Saudi crown prince that there are "great opportunities" in Jordan in which the Kingdom is "eager to actively participate", noting that such investments "will bring benefits to both countries". Bin Salman also said he is willing to "take relations to a new phase", according to Reuters.

The Saudi de facto leader's visit to Jordan therefore has an important economic component, but also seeks unity ahead of a visit by US President Joe Biden, who will meet with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council, as well as Iraq, Jordan and Egypt. "The political aspect of the visit is clear, which is the mobilisation of the Arab front ahead of the summit with Biden, while there is also an economic aspect, which is support for Jordan through investments and agreements," Jawad Al-Hamad, director of the Centre for Middle East Studies in Jordan, told the Arab media outlet Al-Ain.

Iran: Saudi Arabia and Jordan's common concern

On the other hand, Bin Salman's trip to Amman seeks to initiate a new stage in relations between the two kingdoms after years of some estrangement. The height of tensions between Riyadh and Amman came with the attempted coup orchestrated by the Jordanian king's half-brother, Prince Hamza. One of those arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison for his part in the plot was Bassem Awadallah, Bin Salman's former adviser. Abdullah II, in an interview with CNN, did not deny Riyadh's role in the coup attempt, although he did not accuse the Gulf monarchy directly

AFP/KHALIL MAZRAAWI  -   El príncipe jordano Hamzah bin al-Hussein
AFP/KHALIL MAZRAAWI - Jordanian Crown Prince Hamzah bin al-Hussein

Jordan is repairing ties with Saudi Arabia with an eye to economic and regional stability. As a Jordanian source told Reuters, Amman, like Riyadh, is "deeply concerned" about Iran because of its "nuclear ambitions" and its "destabilising role" in the region. Therefore, with the aim of strengthening relations, Jordanian officials have stressed to the news agency that the Bassem Awadallah affair is "behind us".

However, this was not the only friction between Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Under former US president Donald Trump, Washington's good relations with Riyadh caused Amman to feel displaced in the Arab-Israeli peace process. Likewise, the custody of Jerusalem's holy sites has been a point of contention between the two countries. Jordan is the guardian of Muslim and Christian holy sites, although in recent years several reports have revealed Saudi Arabia's efforts to control religious sites in the city. 

AFP PHOTO / JORDANIAN ROYAL PALACE / YOUSEF ALLAN  -   El rey Abdalá II de Jordania inaugurando la 19ª sesión no ordinaria del Parlamento en Ammán, el 10 de dicimebre de 2020
AFP PHOTO / JORDANIAN ROYAL PALACE / YOUSEF ALLAN - Jordan's King Abdullah II

Jordanian political scientist Abdul Ghaffar Al-Obeidi praises the Saudi crown prince's visit to Jordan in Al-Ain as a key step in 'consolidating historic Saudi-Jordanian relations', stressing that the Arab world needs such encounters that 'bridge differences and achieve economic and political benefits for the people of the region'.