No time to squander opportunities
The record speaks for itself. Bilateral trade between Jordan and Syria from the year 1995-1999 plunged. Between those years, Jordanian exports to its northern neighbor dropped from JD39.4 million to JD13.2 million, while imports from Syria decreased from JD55 million to JD34.8 million. Those same five years saw fewer official exchanges than in the last two months alone. Needless to say this is a situation that our country can ill afford.
There were many factors at play during this era of stagnating ties, mainly political. The significance of those reasons cannot be discounted, but it is unfortunate that a recent effort to rejuvenate those ties was sacrificed not for political reasons, but to satisfy personal rivalries, the timing of which could not have been worse considering our national circumstances.
Jordanians feel encouraged to know that the government of Prime Minister Ali Abul Ragheb has not let the situation slide further and instead has been proactive in driving the relationship forward, as Syria itself anticipates a moment of profound change.
Last weekend alone, Jordan and Syria managed to sign four practical and implementable agreements on trade, transport, tourism and agriculture. Since Bashar Assad assumed power in Syria, the idea of a free trade zone between the two countries has been revived, while linking the two countries to a unified electricity grid has again become a priority. We expect to hear about more developments in other areas such as air cooperation in the near future.
Hopefully, this new `best foot forward' approach will extend to the upcoming meetings between the ministers of interior, where the bitter issue of Jordanians still held in Syrian prisons is likely to surface.
But this new `good neighborliness' has been slow to catch on, not just between Jordan and Syria but between all neighboring Arab countries.
As the Arab world, we should be able to admit that we have squandered many opportunities and tools by which we could have asserted our position, both political and economic, on the international stage.
Unfortunately, if we are not prepared to amend the situation within the coming months, new realities are going to be imposed on us before our participation in the international economy, especially, is permitted. We should now be working day and night to achieve some semblance of an Arab `union' much like the model European Union in order to be as successful as possible in the new world rank and file. We could continue to avoid dealing with each other, of course, and wait for inter-Arab cooperation to be imposed on us by the WTO. But we would squander the last opportunity to assert ourselves as a political and economic force with which to be reckoned. ― (Jordan Times)
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)
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