JORDAN TIMES | 5 December 2013
Jordan, EU launch negotiations for free trade agreement
AMMONNEWS—His Majesty King Abdullah and Belgium’s King Philippe on Wednesday reviewed the latest regional developments, especially efforts to achieve Middle East peace.
During a meeting in Brussels, the two leaders stressed the need to achieve tangible progress regarding the Middle East peace process and arrive at the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on Palestinian national soil, in accordance with international resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.
The two leaders also reviewed developments pertaining to the Syrian crisis, a Royal Court statement said.
King Abdullah said Jordan supports a comprehensive political solution to the crisis that ends the suffering of the Syrian people and safeguards the sovereignty and unity of Syria.
The two leaders also discussed ways to strengthen bilateral ties and develop economic and tourism cooperation.
King Philippe expressed Belgium’s support for Jordan over its relief aid for Syrian refugees in the Kingdom.
King Abdullah also met with President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and discussed relations between Jordan and European countries, stressing the importance of working to boost them in all fields.
They reiterated the need for continuing with efforts to arrive at a comprehensive political solution that ends the Syrian conflict.
They also reviewed efforts under way to support the Geneva II conference on Syria.
His Majesty emphasised the importance of the international community’s backing of Middle East peace efforts, to arrive at the establishment of a Palestinian state on the basis of the pre-1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital.
He also stressed that peace talks should lead to resolving all final status issues, which represent part of Jordan’s higher interests.
Rompuy commended the strong relations between the European Council and Jordan, stressing the need to boost them further.
He also valued Jordan’s reform efforts and expressed his appreciation of the King’s wise leadership in dealing with Middle East issues, describing Jordan as an “island of security and stability in a volatile region”.
He expressed the European Council’s full support of the Kingdom’s political and economic reform measures, in addition to its quest to obtain a seat in the UN Security Council.
King Abdullah also met with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, discussing ways to increase Jordanian-European cooperation and the latest regional developments.
During the meeting, which was held at the European Commission’s headquarters, His Majesty reaffirmed Jordan’s commitment to enhancing its cooperation with the EU, highlighting the Kingdom’s gradual reform process, which is based on a “clearly defined roadmap”.
The King said the reforms are aimed at improving political life in Jordan and increasing the people’s participation in decision making, noting that the country has finalised a comprehensive integrity system based on a national consensus.
For his part, Barroso stressed the EU’s commitment to boosting ties with Jordan and supporting its efforts to achieve sustainable development.
The European leader lauded the Kingdom’s recent parliamentary and municipal elections and its political reforms, which have rendered it a “regional model” to be followed.
He said Jordan plays a leading role in addressing regional challenges and building bridges between faiths and cultures, commending the Kingdom’s efforts to reach peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis based on the two-state solution.
Barroso also mentioned his “successful visit” to Jordan in October last year, which gave him a firsthand look at the Kingdom’s achievements and its humanitarian role in hosting Syrian refugees.
All of Europe, he said, is keen on supporting Jordan in dealing with the refugee burden.
The international support that the Kingdom is receiving in its bid for the UN Security Council non-permanent seat is testament to its key role as a moderate country in the region, Barroso added, noting that Jordan has been a leader in enhancing Euro-Mediterranean partnership over the past few years.
The European leader launched negotiations between Jordan and the EU over a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA), which is in implementation of the Jordanian-European Partnership Agreement that went effective in 2002.
The partnership deal stipulated the drawing up of an FTA after 12 years.
The FTA is aimed at enhancing trade between the EU and Jordan and enabling Jordanian products to penetrate the European market.
Discussions during the meeting also covered mobility to ease visa procedures for Jordanians wishing to travel to the EU.
Also on Wednesday, His Majesty met in Brussels with intellectuals and political leaders at the Royal Institute for International Relations (Egmont), one of the leading think tanks in Europe, along with figures from other research centres.
Addressing the gathering, the King said Jordan bases its reform drive on a comprehensive evolutionary approach founded on the constitutional amendments the country introduced in 2011, along with the laws governing political life, which are aimed at enhancing public participation in the decision-making process.
During the meeting, which is part of the King’s endeavours to address the world’s decision-making centres on Middle East issues and Jordan’s stands on them, His Majesty reiterated that the two-state solution to the Mideast issue is the only way to end the decades-old conflict and achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the region.
He also highlighted Jordan’s efforts to host more than 600,000 Syrian refugees and deal with the subsequent pressures on its limited resources, stressing the need for the world community to help the Kingdom continue performing this humanitarian role.
Members of the audience, for their part, voiced appreciation of the King’s vision, deep insight on the region’s issues and the prudent way the country is handling these challenges.
Lower House Speaker Atef Tarawneh, Royal Court Chief Fayez Tarawneh, Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, King’s Office Director Imad Fakhoury and Jordan’s Ambassador in Belgium Montasser Oqla also attended the meeting.