The King of Jordan is seeking a foothold in the region following the normalisation of relations between Doha and the Gulf states

Abdallah II begins diplomatic tour of Qatar with Emir Al Thani

PHOTO/ROYAL HASHEMI COURT - The Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, receives the King of Jordan, Abdullah II, in Doha

King Abdallah II of Jordan's diplomatic agenda is intense. In the coming days, his itinerary will take him to Qatar, Canada and the United States to put Jordan back on the map and carve out a niche for himself in an effervescent region in the throes of transformation that waits for no one. But the Hashemite kingdom's concerns are, in reality, somewhat more prosaic. The Al-Maquar palace is desperately trying to weather the political, social and, above all, economic crises that led to strong protests at the end of last year against a dysfunctional government controlled by Abdallah II. 

Just over 24 hours after hosting veteran Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Amman to discuss maintaining the legal status of the Esplanade of the Mosques, the King of Jordan was seated opposite the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The image released by the Hashemite Royal Court shows Abdallah II himself, wearing a black turtleneck jumper and jacket, talking with a smiling Al Thani. Doha's night skyline can be seen in the background. The atmosphere seems relaxed. 

A week had passed since King Abdallah II and Emir Al Thani last met. They met in Abu Dhabi at the invitation of UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. They were not alone, but accompanied by the Sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tariq, the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah El Sisi. They all attended an informal meeting that highlighted the normalisation of Qatar's relations with its Gulf neighbours. Significantly, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were absent.

Amman sided with Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Cairo and Manama in its dispute with Doha, to the point of breaking diplomatic relations with the tiny Gulf country and supporting the economic blockade in 2017. The bloc accused Qatar of promoting terrorism and harbouring the Muslim Brotherhood on its territory. However, Jordan re-established contacts with the emirate in 2019, largely influenced by the siren calls of investment from Doha. The others would follow suit two years later. 

Moreover, notes analyst Lawrence Rubin, Jordan saw neither political Islamism nor Iran, and by extension Qatar's relationship with these actors, as threats in the same way as its neighbours. "While Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Egypt criminalised the Muslim Brotherhood, Jordan has maintained a symbiotic relationship with them, allowing them to operate openly. This does not mean that the Hashemite Royal Court likes, agrees with or refrains from taking steps to reduce the political viability of the Muslim Brotherhood. Rather, the Court recognises that the movement and its political party, the Islamic Action Front, are an important part of Jordanian politics and society," writes Rubin at the Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). 

Last week's meeting in Abu Dhabi further highlighted the growing closeness between El Sisi's Egypt, Abdullah II's Jordan and the Gulf monarchies. A closeness that was endorsed on Wednesday afternoon, when the Hashemite monarch landed at Doha's Hamad International Airport, recently refurbished by the Qatari regime to host the football World Cup, to meet with the emir. Abdallah II was accompanied by his Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, intelligence chief General Ahmad Husni and his chief of staff, Jafar Hassan.

Mohamed bin Zayed

During the evening, the parties discussed the latest regional and international developments, "in particular those related to the Palestinian cause", reports the Hashemite Royal Court, adding that "King Abdallah reaffirmed the importance of reviving the process to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians on the basis of a two-state solution, and of putting an end to the illegal Israeli actions that undermine it". Netanyahu had pledged to the Jordanian monarch to guarantee the status quo governing the Temple Mount. It is the Jordanian monarchy that manages the Islamic buildings on the compound. 

"Qatar is one of the largest investors in Jordan, having invested more than $4.5 billion in real estate, hotels, tourism services, banking, healthcare and energy," notes the official newspaper The Qatar Peninsula. It is precisely the economy that is pushing Amman into Doha's arms in the face of Riyadh's paralysis. The Hashemite kingdom is facing a pressing economic crisis, with an unemployment rate of 22.6%, a public debt of more than 110% of the country's GDP and 30% of the population living in poverty. Qatar's money, for the moment, is flowing. 

Jordanian political economist Laith Alajlouni, a consultant to the World Bank, writes in the Atlantic Council that the Jordanian state "remains incapable of reforming its economy despite receiving huge amounts of foreign aid". In fact, Alajlouni notes, Jordan received around $32.4 billion during the 2011-2020 period in foreign aid, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Most of this comes not from Saudi Arabia or Qatar, but from the United States. Abdallah II is therefore scheduled to meet in Washington "with key members of congressional committees", according to the Hashemite Royal Court.