The Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to Greece, H.E. Fawwaz Al- Eitan, talks exclusively to thediplomat.gr and Chara Pagkalou, on the impact of the Syrian crisis on Jordan, Jordan’s contribution to the fight against terrorism, the country’s economy as well as the bilateral relations between Jordan and Greece.
- What is the impact of the Syrian crisis on Jordan? Do you assess the European Union’s initiatives in the management of the refugee crisis as positive?
We need to examine the problem at its roots in order to judge whether the up to date EU initiatives are effective or not. As long as the war in Syria continues, the waves of refugees will continue to flow. What we need is a political solution and not bombings, and this goes for any other similar crisis. This was the official stand of Jordan since the beginning of the crisis. We make every effort to reach to a political solution in the region. Even in the Palestinian issue, which is considered to be the root of all crisis in Middle East, since most terrorist organisations in Syria and Libya use as a pretence for their activities the failure to resolve the Palestinian issue.
There are of course other causes, such as foreign intervention in internal matters of countries in the region, or the inability of certain regimes to respond to basic matters, such as the defence of the human rights but also other internal factors.
Jordan is the country that bears the biggest burden of the Syrian crisis, hosting over 1,3 million Syrian refugees on its territory, a number that corresponds to 20-21% of the country’s population, resulting in the significant increase of Jordan’s population in a ratio of 1 to 2.
Turkey also accommodates a big number of Syrian refugees, but in accordance to the population and the economic abilities of each country, Jordan has far exceeded its strengths and its capacity.
Could Germany probably tolerate such a big number of refugees in the same way as Jordan does? Europe is talking about one million Syrian refugees in the whole EU, while Jordan alone already hosts 1.3 million refugees.
The international community must realize that the refugee crisis is not a single country’s problem; this is why Jordan should not bear all this by itself.
The international community is requested to directly support and assist refugees and financially support Jordan in its effort to this direction.
We of course recognise the efforts and support of other countries and organisations, but this covers just 30% of the needs of the country in facing the refugee crisis.
The need to support the humanitarian role of Jordan is quite urgent as, if Jordan collapses, you can imagine the repercussions in the region.
- The battle against terrorism is a basic priority in the political agenda of all countries. Jordan is considered a safe country among the Arab Middle East states and has managed to remain away from terrorism and instability. How could Jordan contribute to the struggle against terrorism and with which countries Jordan would be willing to form an alliance to this purpose?
Jordan managed to avoid and prevent terrorism strikes against it, even though it is a moderate target, thanks to the political leadership and the necessary reforms which were adopted, as well as Jordan’s cooperation with other countries in the fight against terrorism.
Jordan has been always in the first line in the fight against terrorism.
- Which are the main pillars of the Jordanian economy and which are the economic prospects for the year 2016?
Jordan lacks natural resources such as water and energy sources. Its economy is primarily relying on tourism, agriculture, business and human resources. 10% of Jordanians is in Middle Eastern countries, Europe, the U.S. and Australia and they are to a large extent engineers, doctors and business experts, supporting Jordan’s GDP by 25%.
Jordan is considered one of the first countries in the world in the production of renewable energy, which covers 20% of our domestic needs. We aim to promote our efforts in this sector with the construction of auxiliary nuclear reactors.
Jordan produces phosphate fertilisers, agricultural products, which due to favourable weather conditions in winter compared to Europe, are exported to different countries.
Additionally, Jordan is the first country in Middle East in the pharmaceutical industry and the Dead Sea salts are world known for their therapeutic properties.
An important branch of the Jordanian economy is, as I mentioned earlier, tourism (ecological, religious and winter) as Jordan is one of the richest countries in archaeological monuments. The ancient city of Jerash is the best preserved Greek city outside Greece. This is where every summer the well-known Jerash Festival takes place attracting large number of people.
- Which is the official number of Jordanians living in Greece? How would you describe the level of the bilateral relations between Greece and Jordan and what are the prospects for cooperation?
About 2,500 to 3,000 Jordanians live in Greece, most being Greek University graduates and having become Greek citizens.
The bilateral political relations between Greece and Jordan are in an excellent level, whilst the commercial relations have not reached the expected level; the strong foundation on which they are being developed is however established.
We recently witnessed the first trilateral political conference between the General Secretaries of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the Greek Republic, the Republic of Cyprus and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, that took place in Nicosia and the three sides agreed the cooperation between them in the sectors of anti-terrorism and security, immigration, culture, tourism, agriculture, energy, health, transportation, Jordan-EU relations, water management, environment protection and interfaith dialogue.
There are, therefore, so many occasions for cooperation that must not be missed out.
Jordan has signed many bilateral commercial agreements with other countries, such as with the United States (Free Trade Agreement). It is actually the third country in the world that has signed such an agreement with the United States, something not done by many European countries. Investors could therefore come to Jordan and take advantage of this opportunity to open up, to the American market in a most beneficial and privileged Jordanian law for investment.
Jordan’s main imports from Greece are textiles, cosmetics and agricultural products (kiwi fruit, lotus fruit) considering that being geographically adjacent helps on keeping transport costs quite low.
The bilateral tourism between the two countries has significantly risen and this was assisted by the direct flights of Royal Jordanian Airlines, connecting the two countries with 4 flights weekly and, in the last two years, Aegean flights with 3 flights weekly.
- Where does Jordan stand in terms of the Cyprus issue?
In terms of the Cyprus issue Jordan supports a peaceful solution in the framework of international law.
- Do you consider that the coexistence of refugees coming from Islamic countries and Greeks is likely to create problems due to the different culture and different religious customs?
I will answer with a question. Is the Christian population in Jordan facing any problem? Why, therefore this question is raised in Europe? The issue is political; not religious. If religious rights are given to Muslims, there will be coexistence in harmony. These people came to Greece to be rescued, not to promote their religion. It will be good for all of us not to be drawn into religious issues.
The assignee Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to Greece, H.E Fawwaz Al- Eitan has studied Political Science and International Relations in Panteion University and holds a high degree in Political and Diplomatic Studies from the University of Jordan (Amman). He speaks Arabic, Greek, English and French.
He works in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Jordanians Abroad of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (December 1986 to date) and is the assigned Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the Greek Republic (October 2014 to date). Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the Republic of Cyprus (June 2015 to date). Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the Republic of Albania (May 2015 to date). Appointed Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (non-resident) to Serbia, Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (non-resident) to Montenegro (June 2015 to date).
He has also served as Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to Libya (April 2012 – June 2014). Envoy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the Libyan National Transitional Council (May 2011 – Feb 2012). Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to Egypt (Aug 2008 – Mar 2010). Director in the Department of Honorary Councils (Oct 2007 – Aug 2008). Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to Greece (Sep 2002 – Sep 2007). Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Mar 1998 – Jul 2002). Department of bilateral Relations (Jul 1997 – Mar 1998). Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to Greece (Jul 1993 – Jul 1997), Political Department (1992 – 1993), Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to Morocco (Sep 1998 – Sep 1992), Department of Customs, Etiquette, Political Department, Department of International Relations and Council Department (Dec 1986 – Sep 1988).