Amid rhetoric of brotherly relations and Arab national interests, a row over visa formalities casts a shadow over Jordanian-Lebanese bilateral ties. The latest development saw Jordan slapping entry restrictions on Lebanese nationals, claiming to reciprocate a Lebanese visa policy, which was apparently issued in a bid to control the arrival of Palestinians holding Jordanian nationality.
Jordanian authorities announced last week that starting August 1, Lebanese travelers would no longer be able to obtain visas as they enter the kingdom's airports and border posts. Instead they must apply for visas in advance at the embassy and wait for Amman’s approval.
Following a July 26 meeting between Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and his Jordanian counterpart, Ali Abu Raghib, who arrived in Beirut for a three-day unofficial visit, Jordan agreed to slightly relax restrictions for some categories of travelers.
The new policy amendment stipulated that Lebanese travelers who could prove they are headed to Jordan on business and those who have “urgent matters” in the kingdom would be issued immediate visas by the embassy in Beirut, Jordanian ambassador, Anmar Hmoud, told the Daily Star.
This however came as no consolation for the many Lebanese who still must await clearance from Amman, a process that could take up to two weeks. Jordran has therefore decided to announce another policy amendment -- giving Beirut a second chance to go back on its moves -- and issued an assurance that Lebanese nationals will be granted entry visas to Jordan within 48 hours at the maximum, reported AFP.
Relations between the neighbors have been historically warm and several initiatives aimed at facilitating trade and travel between the two have been discussed over the past years.
In August 1999, King Abdullah II of Jordan proposed a tripartite grouping with both Syria and Lebanon, involving a unified entry visa for all three nations. The ultimate objective appeared to be a common Syrian-Jordanian market that would then merge with the Lebanese market. If introduced, the measure would have revived a practice that was used during the 1970s for travel between Syria and Jordan.
Citing "the special brotherly relations between the Arab people," a Jordanian source told the Saudi daily Okaz in June of another trilateral initiative, that will enable movement between Jordan, Syria and Lebanon using only an identity document of one of the three countries.
Nonetheless, friction between the countries arose when Lebanon began in 1995 to require Palestinians to obtain a visa before entering its territory. In 1997, Lebanese authorities took a further step, issuing a six-point internal memo, which carried instructions to diplomatic missions abroad not to grant visas to Jordanians bearing “two-year passports”.
This measure clearly singled out Jordanians of Palestinian origin as unwanted visitors to Lebanon. According to the Lebanese daily Al-Nahar, only Palestinians are the bearers of such documents, issued since Jordan severed its legal and administrative ties with the West Bank in 1988.
Lebanese officials utterly dismiss such press reports. Lebanon’s ambassador in Amman at the time, Adib Alamuddin, told the Jordan Times that all Jordanians were on an equal footing regardless of their origin, adding that the internal memo was, in fact, cancelled in April 1999.
Jordan claims that Lebanon shouldn't make a special case with regard to Jordanian citizens of Palestinian origin. “Security concerns in the Arab world are identical,” Jordan’s ambassador in Beirut Anmar Hmoud told the Daily Star.
The situation in Jordan is truely no different from that in Lebanon. Jordan itself reportedly undertook an unprecedented measure in mid-Jun 2000. The Palestinian daily Al-Quds quoted a high ranking Jordanian source as saying that the ministry of interior issued new instructions preventing Palestinians of the West Bank from entering Jordan without a prior consent from Jordanian authorities, justifying this measure in fears that Israel will gradually expel them.
Repeated efforts to remove visa restrictions between Lebanon and Jordan have so far been to no avail. The only thing to has become clear over the past six years is that mounting tensions between the two are taking a heavy toll on bilateral trade and and travel. — (MENA Report)
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