King Abdullah II of Jordan warned against the formation of a new Arab alliance controlled by "extremism." The king openly attacked two Arab states and another regional state for seeking to launch a "new extremist alliance," attendees of the meeting said. This came as a surprise to many national and leftist political figures with whom the king had met the day before yesterday [Dec. 10] at the house of former Deputy Prime Minister Rajai Muasher.
According to the attendees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, King Abdullah II said his country "is facing serious regional challenges, but the kingdom has bargaining chips that it will use when the time is right."
Regarding the Syrian developments, the king said that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad "can hold for two years at the military level, but not more than four months at the economic level."
King Abdullah II revealed that Jordan "will host Israeli-Palestinian meetings in February to support the peace process,” pointing out that these meetings will take place "based on an understanding with the Europeans and the US." The king pointed out that the kingdom is "betting" on the US position, which will shift its attention from "the internal arena to the external one, and will prioritize discussing the peace process and pushing it in the right direction."
Regarding Jordanian-Egyptian relations — which are experiencing an unprecedented "chill," according to Western and Arab diplomats interviewed by Al-Hayat in Amman — the Jordanian monarch was full of reproach for Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood. The king added that the Egyptian leadership had "marginalized the Jordanian role during the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to stop the recent aggression on the Gaza Strip." He clearly stated that he had informed President Morsi that there is "a Jordanian army in Gaza," in reference to the Jordanian field hospital, which has been operating in the Strip since early 2009.
The king said that "Jordan was severely damaged as a result of frequent interruptions of Egyptian natural gas, which cost the state treasury about 5 billion Jordanian dinars [$7.04 billion]," stressing that the interruption of gas ''is the real reason behind the economic crisis plaguing the country."
Under previous agreements with the Egyptian authorities, Jordan used to import 80% of its gas needs for the production of electricity, which equates to a daily amount of about 6.8 million cubic meters of imported gas. However, the pipeline which supplies gas to Jordan and Israel was subsequently the target of frequent bombings.
King Abdullah II said that "Amman has bargaining chips through which it can send messages to Cairo, including the fact that 500,000 Egyptians are working in Jordan. Moreover, the kingdom is the only passageway for Egyptian vegetables being exported to Iraq, and tens of thousands of Egyptians working in the Gulf states are using the Nuweiba-Aqaba waterway in their travels."
The Jordanian monarch made these declarations hours before receiving a phone call from the Egyptian president. The content of this call was not disclosed. However, it contained an Egyptian request to stop the Jordanian government's decision to deport thousands of Egyptian workers for violating residency conditions.
Sources close to Jordanian decision-making circles told Al-Hayat that Amman wants to send these messages to Cairo in protest against the "slackening" flow of Egyptian gas to Jordan.
Other official sources talked about the arrest of thousands of Egyptian workers who have breached the conditions of their residency in the past two weeks, as well as the deportation of about 1,900 of them to Egypt, according to Jordanian Minister of Labor Nidal Qatamin. He said his country is not targeting Egyptian laborers, saying that the deportation decisions resulted from "violations of the usual procedures and applicable laws."
Remarkably, according to official sources, of the 500,000 Egyptians working in Jordan, approximately 320,000 have violated the conditions of their residency.
As meetings and contacts are ongoing between the Egyptian Embassy in Amman and the ministries of Interior and Labor to try to contain the crisis — which has embarrassed Jordanian economic sectors, especially the construction sector — the arrest and deportation of Egyptian workers seem to be ongoing to this very day.
Al-Hayat tried several times to seek clarification regarding the employment crisis from the Egyptian Embassy in Amman, to no avail.
Politicians do not hide the fact that Jordanian-Egyptian political relations have been "chilled" since the fall of Hosni Mubarak's regime and the arrival of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt. No meetings have been held thus far between the Egyptian president and the Jordanian monarch, and the meetings that have occurred between the two sides have been strictly ministerial.