By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
AMMAN (Reuters) – Top Turkish and Jordanian officials sought to deepen relations in talks on Tuesday, days after the kingdom restored full ties with Ankara’s ally Qatar, in what officials say is a realignment by Jordan away from longtime Gulf partners.
Visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi, and Turkey’s intelligence chief, defence minister and military chief of staff also had talks with senior Jordanian officials, diplomatic sources said.
A brief foreign ministry statement said both countries had agreed to “develop their ties and expand economic cooperation and deepen coordination on regional issues.”
In a snub to Saudi Arabia, Jordan appointed a new ambassador to Doha last Tuesday, two years after withdrawing its ambassador in solidarity with Gulf allies who cut ties with Doha, accusing it of backing terrorism, a charge Qatar denies.
Officials and diplomats privately say the warming of ties with Turkey and Qatar – two rivals of Gulf heavyweight Saudi Arabia – is a turnaround in a foreign policy that has in recent years backed Riyadh and the United Arab Emirates on most regional and inter-Arab conflicts.
Jordanian officials had long been wary of Turkey’s growing clout in the Arab world, where it has used its influence as a major Sunni power to compete with Saudi Arabia
Amman has long depended on Arab monarchies in the Gulf to shore up its debt burdened economy.
However Gulf states in recent years reneged on pledges to help debt burdened Amman with billions of dollars to soften the impact of IMF austerity reforms on its cash strapped economy.
Gulf Arabs have shifted their foreign policy focus to their rivalry with Iran, with some officials even calling for normalized ties with Israel. That development has left Amman more isolated in confronting Washington’s possible jettisoning of a Palestinian state under any future Middle East peace plan.
Jordan even abrogated a free trade pact with Turkey last year under pressure from Gulf allies seeking to curb the Turkish role in the region, businessman and officials privately say.
Diplomatic sources say the stepped up rapprochement with Ankara and Qatar has accelerated since U.S. President Donald Trump reversed decades of U.S. policy and recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Unlike other Gulf states Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has been vocal in endorsing the role of King Abdullah’s Hashemite dynasty as custodian of Muslim religious sites in the holy city.
Amman fears Trump’s yet to be disclosed peace plan seeks to challenge that role.
Many Jordanians also have strong historic ties with the country’s former Ottoman ruler, and in recent years trade and private investment has surged with thousands of Jordanians visiting and settling there, official figures show.
In another sign of divergence with the Gulf, the kingdom in recent months has lifted curbs on the activity of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s main opposition group, signalling a break with Gulf states, many of whom see it as a terrorist organisation. The Brotherhood says it does only peaceful work.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi, Editing by William Maclean)