Vital joint projects new focus for Jordan and Iraq
Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour arrived back home Thursday, concluding an official visit to Baghdad where he held talks with his Iraqi counterpart that focused on means to enhance bilateral ties.
Ensour carried to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki a written letter from His Majesty King Abdullah, expressing keenness on enhancing Jordanian-Iraqi cooperation and coordination in all issues of mutual concern.
During their meeting, the two premiers expressed satisfaction over the level of bilateral relations in all fields, stressing the need to activate agreements and protocols signed between the two countries.
The two premiers also presided over a meeting of the Jordanian-Iraqi higher joint committee, which discussed means to enhance bilateral relations, mainly in energy, through the projected double pipeline that will supply the Kingdom with crude oil and natural gas and the possibility of building an electricity grid between the two countries.
Members of the committee also discussed ways to increase joint investment ventures in agriculture, transportation and rebuilding of Iraq with Port of Aqaba being the main conduit of goods bound for Iraq.
The two sides also discussed the issue of Jordanian prisoners in Iraq and other issues concerning residence permits and visas for Iraqis.
Ensour and Maliki signed minutes of the meetings, which concluded with a bilateral agreement to protect investors signed by Minister of Industry, Trade, and Supply Hatem Halawani and his Iraqi counterpart.
During a press conference, the two premiers stressed the importance of increasing communication between officials of both countries to boost the level of existing cooperation.
Ensour said that the King has clear directives to the government to enhance relations with Iraq, adding that “there is nothing holding Jordan back from improving its ties with Iraq”.
Ensour added that his meeting with Maliki was not a “protocol nor ceremonial” but part of the meetings of the Jordanian-Iraqi higher joint committee that works on enhancing bilateral relations.
“On more than one occasion, I have made it clear that we deal with an honest man [Maliki] who fulfilled all his promises and such commitment enhances our confidence that what has been agreed upon will be accomplished,” Ensour said, addressing the Iraqi premier.
Ensour added that Jordan, as a moderate country, acts on the basis of clear stands and has nothing to conceal.
On the projected double pipeline that will supply the Kingdom with crude oil and natural gas, Ensour said that the Iraqi side has shown seriousness to implement the project. “In Jordan, we are fully assured that such a project will succeed,” he said.
Ensour also said that the second strategic project between the two countries is the railway network, stressing that such a project will be “meaningless” if designed for one country to be used internally.
He said that the two sides have identical visions regarding the railway project to link Baghdad with Amman and Aqaba, stressing the importance of linking Saudi Arabia and Syria with a similar railway network in order for the project to fully achieve its purposes.
The third project Ensour unveiled is a new road connecting Jordan with Iraq, saying that Jordan puts its Aqaba Port at the disposal of Iraq.
Ensour thanked the Iraqi government for releasing Jordanian prisoners in Iraq, stressing the need to include more of them in the pardons issued by Iraq and activate the Riyadh agreement allowing inmates to complete their prison terms in their home countries.
Ensour also noted that Jordan does not “export terrorism” and has no secret agendas.
For his part, Maliki stressed the need to speed up the implementation of the double pipeline between the two countries in addition to the railway network.
He also said that discussions with the Jordanian side covered giving priority to the Kingdom’s agricultural produce in the Iraqi market.
Maliki also stressed that Jordan and Iraq represent a “moderate” model in dealing with challenges facing the region, mainly terrorism and extremism.
He also said that Iraq has interests in allowing Jordan to export its agricultural produce to Turkey and Europe through its territories as an alternative to violence-hit Syria, but added that such an issue needs some arrangements concerning the rehabilitation of roads.
Ensour also held talks with Iraqi Vice President Khudier Al Khuzaie that covered bilateral relations and a number of regional issues.
Ensour also met members of the Iraqi Business Council and discussed means to enhance joint economic ventures.