Fearing Isolation in a Turbulent Region, Jordan and Turkey Inch Closer Together

Fearing Isolation in a Turbulent Region, Jordan and Turkey Inch Closer Together
Holding a banner with a Turkish and a Palestinian flag, protesters chant anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration near the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, Dec. 6, 2017 (AP photo).

Jordan announced this week that it was suspending its free trade agreement with Turkey, in order to protect Jordanian companies from what it called “unequal competition” from industries supported by the Turkish government. It looks like a setback in ties between Amman and Ankara, yet the geopolitical picture is more complicated.

Two weeks ago, over consecutive days in late February, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, and its highest-ranking military officer, Gen. Hulusi Akar, visited Jordan for meetings meant to signal both countries’ desire to upgrade their bilateral relationship in light of regional developments. A major impetus is undoubtedly the Trump administration’s decision in December to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that unilaterally recognized the contested city as the capital of Israel.

Jordan is rightly concerned that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is entering a new phase that may leave its interests, long central to the moribund peace process, by the wayside. It fears a secret deal between the Trump administration and other Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, that may have essentially traded the status of Jerusalem for greater containment of Iran. While such an agreement remains the subject of speculation in the Middle East—largely pieced together with the details of diplomatic visits and a proposal that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly presented to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Riyadh—the Jordanians are convinced that no American decision on Jerusalem and the embassy would ever have been made without first consulting Saudi and Egyptian officials.

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