Jordan King demands peace in Syria as country suffers from record trade deficit

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King Abdullah parliament speech
King Abdullah delivers a speech during a session for the parliament in Amman. Photo - Ali Jareki/Reuters

King Abdullah II of Jordan, whose country is host to a large number of refugees from neighbouring countries, expressed concerns on Wednesday about the implications of the Syrian crisis for the entire region. The call comes amid reports that Jordan’s trade deficit widened 34.2% to 3.24 billion dinars ($4.56bn) in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2011, due to a higher energy import bill.

“The window for a solution is narrowing and all should be on the alert to prevent the crisis from sliding into a civil war,” the king told pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat.

The Hashemite Monarch also told the Arabic newspaper in an exclusive interview that military intervention to end Syria’s crisis would risk a “total breakdown in regional security.”

According to the data, Jordan’s crude oil and petroleum products import bill in the first quarter of the year surged 63.7% compared to the same period last year to 1.81 billion dinars ($2.56 billion). The near-landlocked country imports most of its fuel from Saudi Arabia.

Energy imports were almost 35.8% of total imports, the data showed.

The disruption of regular cheap Egyptian gas supplies has costed the exchequer millions in high fuel costs. Previously covering nearly 80% of Jordan’s electricity generation, the authorities have been forced to import more expensive fossil fuel to run power plants.

The country’s civilian nuclear programme is also in doldrums as Jordanian MPs recently voted for its suspension over concerns that it would only add more pressure on the finances and worsen the debt situation.

Amman is battling a spiralling trade and budget deficit for years which has worsened during the last year due to political strife in neighbouring Syria, also one of its biggest trade partners.

King Abdullah praised the initiative by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and insisted it is still “the best way to develop” a solution to the crisis, the London-based newspaper reported.

Jordan has opposed suggestions that Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar Al Assad should be supplied with arms. The monarch said in the interview that his last direct contact with Assad was at the start of the crisis.

Reports quoting government and UN officials in Amman said on Tuesday Jordan is ending its open door policy for Syrians amid rising false asylum claims.

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