OBG talks to John Kerry, US Senator and Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

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John Kerry, US Senator and Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Interview: John Kerry

What recommendations do you have for leaders in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) seeking to convert turmoil into long-term, positive reforms?

JOHN KERRY: We are all following every move in the wave of economic, political and demographic changes sweeping through the MENA region. Thoughtful Arab leaders, such as King Abdullah II of Jordan, King Hassan of Morocco and Sultan Qaboos of Oman, have tried to anticipate these changes and lead rather than follow. Of course, each context is different, and every country will have its own unique set of actions and reactions. But if there is a single lesson in the historic events of 2011 for policymakers in the region, it is that this is a time for creative and visionary leadership.

How are the US and Jordan working to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians?

KERRY: We are working together very closely. I have enormous respect for King Abdullah II, who is a passionate and remarkably persistent advocate for lasting peace in the Middle East and who has a real sense of urgency on achieving a permanent two-state solution. It is not a secret that the last several years have been quite frustrating for those of us in the international community who believe that an end to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is one of the Middle East’s most important priorities. Jordan’s efforts to restart direct negotiations between the two sides were welcome.

Can you tell us more about the collaboration between US and Jordanian intelligence services in the global fight against terrorism?

KERRY: Rather than go into specific details, I will say that security cooperation between Jordan and the US is robust, and that it continues to deepen. Jordan is an important partner to the US on many strategic fronts, including in global counterterrorism cooperation, but also in the political, economic and cultural realms. It is a strong bilateral relationship that continues to mature and it is one that, I believe, has provided important benefits for the people of both countries, as well as for the broader Middle East.

What role do you envision Jordan playing in the reconstruction and stabilisation of Iraq following the withdrawal of US troops?

KERRY: Unlike some of its neighbours, since the Iraq war began in 2003, Jordan has played both a responsible and a constructive role in the course of events. Jordan has been an important political interlocutor across the Iraqi political spectrum. It played a key role in supporting the Arab Awakening that helped reduce violence so dramatically in the years 2007 and 2008, and it has served as a centre for wide-ranging international assistance efforts into Iraq. I expect that Jordan will continue to perform these vital roles after the departure of American troops from Iraq.

Now that Iraq has taken the presidency of the Arab League, I believe that there is a real opportunity to better integrate the country with its Arab neighbours – politically, economically, culturally and militarily. Jordan is well positioned to play a positive and constructive part in that integration process.

How has US foreign aid affected Jordan’s economic development and how will it develop in the future?

KERRY: I have long been a staunch advocate for US assistance to Jordan and will continue to be one. King Abdullah II is a wise and thoughtful leader, but Jordan faces a wide range of economic, political and security challenges. These are tough times for Americans, but Jordan has always been there for us in times of need and I believe it deserves our strong economic support.

The goal of this economic assistance is obviously never to create dependencies, but to build capacity and help kick-start economic reforms so the Jordanian economy can become increasingly self-sufficient, and more capable of providing the employment opportunities it needs for the next generation of talented university graduates. I believe that the king feels that very deeply.

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The Report: Jordan 2012

Politics chapter from The Report: Jordan 2012

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