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Jordan-US ties emerging stronger

Feb 15,2018 - Last updated at Feb 15,2018

The visit of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Jordan for talks with His Majesty King Abdullah and senior government officials, including Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman Safadi, was not only timely but also a big success by all standards.

It is not only the size of the new five-year memorandum of understanding (MoU) that was signed during Tillerson's visit, but also the signal it has sent across the region and beyond on the strength and enduring features of the strategic relationship between the US and Jordan.

Jordan-US relations emerged from Tillerson's talks in Amman stronger than ever, despite the differences that have surfaced recently between the two countries over the issue of Jerusalem.

The new MoU is in itself, indeed, far-reaching and impressive as it entails providing Jordan with $ 6.3 billion in economic and military aid over a five-year period; at a rate of $1.275 billion annually. The new package deal exceeds the previous three-year MoU by $275 million. The significance of this increase goes beyond numbers, as its true importance lies in Tillerson's own words that it constitutes "a signal to the rest of the world that the US-Jordan partnership has never been stronger”.

This special relationship is not only deep and profound, but is also able to endure some stresses and strains that occasionally take place, even between the best of friends and allies. Safadi said during his joint press conference with Tillerson that "the US is a true friend and solid partner".

On peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Tillerson described the much-talked about US peace plan during his joint press conference with Safadi on Tuesday as "fairly well advanced". Tillerson said that he has "seen the plan… It’s been under development for a number of months".

The US official added that he has "identified areas that we feel need further work", adding that he thinks "it will be up to the president [Donald Trump] to decide when he feels it's time and he's ready to put that plan forward. I will say it's fairly well advanced."

On the two-state solution for the Palestinian conflict, which Jordan and the rest of the international community upholds as the only sensible and sustainable solution once and for all, Tillerson said the US supports the two-state solution, provided that the two sides could endorse it.

Having Israel truly consent to the two-state solution is, of course, the biggest challenge as leaving its fate dependent on Israel's consent rather weakens Washington's resolve to endorse the only just and equitable solution on the table.

This is where a more determined movement by the US needs to be exercised, as all indicators suggest that Israel under the current leadership is in no mood to yield to the logic of the two-state solution.

On the equally vexing issue of Jerusalem, the US secretary of state's own words on the subject suggest that there could be a positive US movement on it, despite the fact that Trump has already recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and has also indicated that the US embassy will be relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in due course.

When Tillerson said at the joint press conference that "the final status, the final borders in Jerusalem are up to the parties to decide", he may have sent a signal that the door is still wide open on the final status of Jerusalem.

This is where the future of Jerusalem, which has been the very cause that the US and Jordan had drifted wide apart, may witness a movement, albeit a subtle one, to bridge the existing differences between them.

By that as it may, differences between close allies cannot be expected to last for long. The successful visit of Tillerson to Amman is evidence of this truism.

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