Money and Investment Conference in Jordan Discusses Status of Digital Currencies


Amman – The 12th Money and Investment Conference got underway on Tuesday in Amman with the participation of Arab and foreign experts and international companies.

The conference, titled “Digital coins [bitcoins] and their influence on the economy”, discussed the modern era of digital currencies, such as the “bitcoins”.

The two-day conference will address the future of banknotes in light of the spread of digital money, as well as the advantages of investment in stocks and oil in the Arab region and the impact of currency fluctuations on Arab economies.

It will also tackle systems and technology used in currency trading and the laws and regulations that organize it.

Amman Stock Exchange Chairman of the Board of Directors Jawad Anani said in the opening speech that bitcoins first emerged in 2009 and are protected through an e-security system that is structured in a “special language that makes it very difficult to penetrate.”

“There is no monetary authority that supervises digital currencies on the international level, and in case they were accepted globally, the functions of other currencies must be acquired as a means of payment and a tool for storage and settlement, which will raise the price of gold, silver and platinum in the world,” he explained.

Anani also stressed that the electronic revolution witnessed by the global economy will rearrange the roles of many international organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund, the Bank for International Settlements and the World Trade Organization.

“Bitcoins are divided into two kinds: electronic ones that enjoy high levels of protection due to their encryption, and coins whose values are estimated at $42 million globally,” Anani said.

International economic expert Amr Abdo said that the digital currency revolution is inseparable from the global economic crisis, which revealed that the world economy does not serve the middle class.

He pointed out that the market value of digital currencies today is around 93 billion dollars on the global level.

Fadi Khalaf, secretary general of the Arab Stock Exchange, said that the opportunities are attractive for investment in stocks.

He attributed the reason for the Arab investments in global stock markets to the lack of liquidity, which should be addressed through short selling and the construction of hedging tools that reduce risk rates.

Jordan Sentences 8 to Prison on Terrorism Charges


Amman – The Jordanian State Security Court on Monday issued three- to 15-year prison sentences against eight Jordanians after they were convicted of carrying out terrorist acts, promoting the ideas of an extremist group and attempting to join ISIS.

The court also sentenced a man to 15 years hard labor for planning to commit a terrorist act for ISIS by stabbing a Tourism Ministry guard, Mousa al-Abudullat, the defendants’ lawyer told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The 24-year-old convict, who has been in custody since March 2017, was found guilty of conspiring to carry out terrorist acts, promoting ISIS terrorist ideology and attempting to join the terror group.

The sentence was announced during a public hearing held under Colonel Judge Mohammad al-Afif and the membership of the civil judge Ahmad al-Qatarna, the leading Judge Safwan al-Zu’bi and in the presence of the State Security Prosecutor Captain Anas al-Khasawneh.

Also on Monday, the court sentenced six convicts to three years hard labor and a seventh suspect to four years hard labor for promoting ISIS ideologies and trying to join terrorist and armed groups.

Two detainees were acquitted.

Abdullat said that during the past three months, the court has sentenced 120 suspects, ten of whom were Syrian and the rest were Jordanian.

Most of the cases were related to promoting ISIS ideology or attempting to join terrorist organizations or carry out terrorist acts.

Strong Demand by Investors for Jordan’s ‘Eurobonds’

Amman- Jordan has successfully issued $1 billion worth of Eurobonds on international markets at an interest rate of 7.375 percent and under a maturity period of 30 years, according to a Ministry of Finance statement.

Underwriting applications for the bonds surpassed $4.3 billion; more than 400 per cent of the issuance value, the ministry said, adding that more than 240 investors, including major investment funds from the US, the UK and Europe participated in the underwriting.

Minister of Finance Omar Malhas said Tuesday that the issuance comes within “the set limits” in the General Budget Law, stressing that it will not push public debt above that targeted level and does not deviate from the government’s financial reform plans.

Malhas noted that Jordan has indulged in a financial reform program in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund to reduce the public debt ratio to GDP from 95 percent to 77 percent by 2022.

For his part, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Finance Ezzedine Kanakariya said the yield on these bonds would be used to finance the treasury’s needs, including paying off local bonds that will be matured by the end of the year.

He added that the issuance would secure the local private sector access to funding to implement its financial plans.

Notably, a team from the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank made a tour last week to market the Eurobonds, during which the members met more than 60 international companies from the largest investment funds and presented the economic, financial and procedural developments and plans for implementing Jordan’s financial reform program.

Khalid Darwish from JP Morgan and Ziad Qutami from Citigroup managed the issuance process in global markets.

Jordan’s Ministry of Finance announced in April that it had successfully issued $500-million worth of Eurobonds on international markets.

The bond was sold with a yield rate of 5.875 percent, the ministry said.

Jordan Rejects HRW Accusations of Forced Deportation of Syrians


Amman – Amman rejected on Monday claims by Human Rights Watch (HRW) that the country has been “summarily deporting Syrian refugees — including collective expulsions of large families”.

Minister of State for Media Affairs Mohammad Momani said his country was abiding by international law in this regard, calling for accuracy before publishing such reports.

The report, released on Monday, said that the “Syrians are not being given a meaningful chance to challenge their removal and Jordan has not assessed their need for international protection”.

“Jordan is abiding by the international law in this regard…The return of the Syrian refugees is voluntary and in such cases the return is to areas where there is no threat or danger to their lives,” Momani told the local media.

Underlining that the security of the Jordanian borders was above all considerations, the minister noted that his country has offered a lot of help to the Syrian refugees.

According to the 27-page report, the Jordanian authorities deported about 400 registered Syrian refugees each month during the first five months of 2017.

It added that around 300 registered refugees each month returned to Syria during that time under circumstances that appeared to be voluntary.

Another estimated 500 refugees each month allegedly returned to Syria under circumstances that are unclear, the HRW report said.

Bill Frelick, Refugee Rights Director at HRW, was quoted in the report as saying: “Jordan shouldn’t be sending people back to Syria without making sure they wouldn’t face a real risk of torture or serious harm and unless they have had a fair opportunity to plead their case for protection.”

Jordan hosts around 1.3 million Syrian refugees of whom more than 600,000 are registered with the UNHCR.

Syrian-Jordanian Meetings to Reopen Nasib Border Crossing

Damaged vehicles near the Syrian-Jordanian border at the Nasib crossing in southern Syria.

Amman- Jordanian-Syrian meetings have been taking place over the last few days to discuss the subject of reopening the Nasib Border Crossing, said sources in Jordan.

Consultations are being held away from media spectacles– results and arrangements will be made clearer next October, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The Nasib Border Crossing is an international border crossing between Syria and Jordan. It is one of the busiest border crossings in Syria and is situated on the Damascus-Amman international highway.

Sources pointed out that reopening the crossing is a move representing common interest for both Jordanian and Syrian parties and that its resumption is clearly linked to border security implications.

Despite Amman being put under undeniable pressure, sources said Jordan refused to open the Nasib crossing when it was under the control of unofficial authorities.

For its part, Russia’s Defense Ministry urged armed Syrian opposition factions to reopen the border crossing point between Syria and Jordan.

“We ask the leaders of the armed opposition, the American and Jordanian sides and the head of the United Nations offices in the cities of Damascus and Amman to assist the Syrian government in resolving the issue of reopening the crossing of the customs share and part of the road,” said the Russian Centre for reconciliation of opposing sides in the Syrian Arab Republic.

The opening of the crossing will allow for increased trade between Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, especially between the governorates of Daraa, Sweida and Damascus.

Russia’s call came after a new meeting convened in the Jordanian capital of Amman, which included representatives from Syrian opposition factions, the local council in Daraa, and Jordanian officials.

The meeting was arranged in order to reach an agreement on Nasib’s reopening, but it failed in light of the conditions put forward by opposition factions and the Syrian regime.

Opposition factions demanded that all measures at the crossing be placed under its control (the southern front factions of the Free Syrian Army are active in the area) and that the Syrian regime establishes a second crossing point near the Nasib crossing, where the opposition does not intervene.

As for Damascus, it demanded the presence of its staff to conduct all the crossing operations as was the case before the Syrian revolution broke out.

Jordanian Official: Syrian Refugee Crisis Consumes 5% of GDP


Amman, Brussels– Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Imad Fakhouri, revealed on Monday an agreement with donor countries to hold the Brussels II Conference in the spring of 2018, in order to guarantee continued efforts to mobilize funding in support of countries hosting refugees and to follow up the work progress.

The announcement came during a workshop held in the Dead Sea for sectorial teams representing the twelve sectors covered by the Jordan Response Plan (JRP) to the Syrian ​​crisis.

The European Commission announced in Brussels last week that it would organize the second Brussels conference on supporting the future of Syria and the region in the spring of next year.

EU High Commissioner for Foreign and Security Policy Federica Mogherini announced the news during a high-level meeting on the Syrian crisis, on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The Jordanian minister said that addressing the Syrian crisis and its repercussions was an international duty that “requires a real and clear commitment, for many years, by donor countries and international institutions”, pointing out that Jordan was carrying out this humanitarian mission on behalf of the international community.

“Over time, burdens are increasing and accumulating,” he said, adding that the financial burden of the Syrian crisis – at an annual rate of $2 billion a year, equivalent to about 20 percent of the total domestic budget revenue, or 5 percent per year of GDP – has directly affected, the living standards, in terms of access to public services and the rise of expenses.”

With regards to funding levels, Fakhouri said that despite their improvement last year, there was a 38 percent gap in 2016, as 62 percent of the needs included in the JRP in 2016 were covered, compared with 30 percent in previous years.

In a statement issued last week, Mogherini said that the EU and the international community would launch the “Brussels Process” that “will put our convening power at the service of the Syrian people”.

“Such work would support the Geneva talks on a political transition, which remains the only viable path towards ending the war and stabilizing the country,” she added.

Jordanian Security Raids IAF Headquarters

Amman- Jordanian security forces raided Saturday the headquarters of the Islamic Action Front (IAF) in Irbid, 85 km north of the capital Amman, demanding the handover of the headquarters for the licensed Muslim Brotherhood, according to a security source.

The source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the security measure was an implementation of the decision made by Irbid’s Governor Radwan al-Atoum to handover IAF’s headquarters for the Muslim Brotherhood.

The IAF’s leadership denounced the governor’s decision as the party members continue their protest inside the headquarters and refuse to hand it over.

The party’s administration refused to hand over the headquarters since it is a chartered official contract, considering this action contrary to the law and the constitution “and represents a flagrant violation of freedoms as it is an invasion on the headquarters of a law-abiding party, and its entry is only permitted by a final judicial decision.”

IAF Spokesman Murad Adayleh stressed his party’s refusal to hand over its branch’s headquarters, pointing out that the decision is a clear violation of the law since the headquarters belong to a licensed political party under the virtue of the law, which stipulates that the headquarters and property of the parties are protected and may not be attacked.

IAF’s Deputy Secretary-General Naim Khasawneh said that the decision of the Governor of Irbid came after negotiations Saturday morning between the leadership of the party and the Deputy Governor, who asked them to handover the headquarters, but they rejected the request, stressing that the party has a legal lease that expires in 2020, and no party has the right to evacuate it without judicial order.

“The leadership of the party confirmed for the deputy governor that IAF is not part of the conflict between the newly licensed Muslim Brotherhood and the old Muslim Brotherhood and that it is a licensed party by law,” Khasawneh added.

Jordanian Man Charged with Manslaughter in Electrocution of His Son


Amman- A security source said that a Jordanian citizen has killed his 13-year-old son on Monday by giving him electric shocks as a form of discipline in a neighborhood in Amman.

A source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the 14-year-old boy was taken to hospital in the region of Sahab, and doctors in charge pronounced him dead on arrival. His father first said he accidentally electrocuted himself while he was playing.

The source added that after suspecting a criminal act, an inspection team was formed to investigate it. During the questioning procedures, the father confessed to killing his son while giving him electric shocks as a form of discipline. The father also confessed to regularly electrocuting his son as a form of discipline, but this time, the young boy died under the intensity of the shocks.

In other details on the crime, the source said the father tied up his son and gave him electric shocks; yet the clinical tests on the boy’s body showed traces of wires on his hands, and signs of electrocution on different parts of the body.

For his part, Brigadier Saleh al-Wakihan said that criminal investigations proved that a crime was committed.

He added that the father confessed to his act and that he tied his son’s hands and legs with wires and plastic strips. He wrapped his son’s hands and feet with electrical wires, and shocked him until he went into a coma.

He then took him to the hospital where they told him that he died.

The brigadier explained that the body was transferred to forensics and the father was transferred to the general prosecutor of the criminal court to complete the necessary investigations.

Eyewitnesses in the area reported that the child memorized the Holy Qur’an, and has no problems with his schoolmates. So far, the reasons that pushed the father to commit the crime are still unknown.

SDF Signs Grant Agreement for Jordan

Amman- The Jordanian government signed Wednesday with the Saudi Development Fund (SDF) a grant agreement to implement traffic intersections in Amman, with a total cost of $60 million, as part of the Saudi share in the Gulf grant.

Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Imad Fakhoury and SDF Deputy Chairman Yousef bin Ibrahim al-Bassam signed the agreement on behalf of the government and SDF respectively, in the presence of Prime Minister Hani Mulqi.

The projects include constructing bridges with a total length of 1,370 meters and 220-meter tunnels on three main intersections in the capital: the central fruit and vegetable market intersection, Hurria and Quds streets intersection and Marj al-Hamam intersection with the Amman-Dead Sea Road.

On the sidelines of the signing ceremony, Mulqi met with Bassam and expressed Jordan’s appreciation to the continuous support of Saudi Arabia.

The Prime Minister stressed that the support of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries has contributed to enhancing Jordan’s resilience and capability to face challenges, which have been exacerbated by hosting large numbers of Syrian refugees.

This support, he added, enabled the Kingdom to overcome challenges and provide basic services to Syrian refugees, mainly in the education and health sectors.

He also highlighted the importance of implementing the intersections’ projects in Amman in order to help reduce traffic jams in the capital and help citizens save time and effort.

This support, he added, enabled the Kingdom to overcome challenges and provide basic services to Syrian refugees, mainly in the education and health sectors.

For his part, Bassam commended the level of cooperation between the SDF and the Jordanian government, stressing that this cooperation, which dates back to 40 years, has been “excellent” in terms of development and implementing schemes.

Jordan Denounces Israeli Decision to Shut Down Aqsa’s Bab Al Rahma Building

Israeli police officers take positions on the roof of Aqsa mosque during clashes with Palestinians in Jerusalem's Old City

Amman- Jordan on Tuesday strongly condemned a recent decision by the Israeli Magistrates Court to close down the Bab Al Rahma building on the Al Aqsa Mosque/ Haram Al Sharif compound in occupied East Jerusalem.

Bab Al Rahma (Arabic for “the door of mercy”) is located in the eastern wall of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Inside the door, there are several facilities and offices. The Islamic Heritage Committee has been the headquarters of its advocacy activities since 1992 before it was dissolved by the Israeli occupation in 2003.

Islamic authorities demanded that the occupation respect the status quo since 1967 and the need to respect all the covenants, conventions and agreements with the Jordanian government and stop ignoring Security Council resolutions, UNESCO and international legitimacy.

State Minister for Media Affairs Mohammad Momani said that the Israeli judiciary had no jurisdiction over East Jerusalem and its holy sites, on top of which is the holy Al Aqsa Mosque, as the site is an occupied territory that is subject to the international law and the international humanitarian law.

Israel, as the occupying power, should respect its commitments in this regard, he demanded.
Jordan, he added, categorically rejects all the ongoing illegal Israeli attempts to impose the Israeli laws on Al Aqsa Mosque as a flagrant violation of the international law, and deems these laws as part of Israeli policies designed to change the historical and legal status quo at the holy compound.

Momani, who is also the government’s official spokesman, said that the Israeli police appeal to the court to permanently close down the Bab Al Rahma structure under the anti-terrorism law would have serious consequences as it amounts to an aggression against the Aqsa Mosque, Muslims, and the Islamic Waqf (trust), which has the jurisdiction in this matter.

Momani urged Israel as the occupying power to immediately revoke “this politicized and provocative decision” and live up to its obligations under the international law, and also respect the Jerusalem Waqf, which has the exclusive jurisdiction over all the affairs of the Aqsa Mosque.