HNC Chairman: A Promising Military Alliance to Support Rebels, Iran Retaliates with Unprecedented Forces

London- Chairman to Syria’s High Negotiations Committee Riad Hijab on Friday said signs of a capable military regional initiative that would alleviate the suffering of Syrians are very promising. 

The top Syrian coordinator said that after diplomacy failing, a decisive regional military commandership is a the closest to a shining glimmer of hope in the darkness which has befallen Syria.

Hijab also cited an alarming mass inflow of Iranian troops and proxy militias taking place—added to the unprecedented arms trafficking activity registered. 

Amid an absent international agreement on proposals made to calm the situation in Syria, militias backing the regime head, Bashar al-Assad, and rebels have deployed and repositioned active units.  

In a phone interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Hijab called ‘Tahrir al-Sham’ and ‘Fatah al-Sham’ “thinly-veiled masks” for al-Qaeda offshoot, Al-Nusra Front. 

“There is no land they set camp in that doesn’t end up being destroyed, and have havoc wreaked upon its people,” Hijab said when describing the horrors of extremist groups – namely Tahrir al-Sham and Fatah al-Sham- in Syria.

Hijab also urged that all foreign combatants fighting in Syria to leave the country instantly.

Addressing radicalized Syrian youth, Hijab pressed that they “answer to the voice of reason” and “abandon the illusions drawn up by extremism and fabricated rogue fatwas.”

Fatwas –a ruling on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized authority—have long been exploited by ultra-hardline groups to rally up recruitment among youths. Under self-proclaimed religious authorities, groups like ISIS have employed a malicious strategy based on issuing self-tailored fatwas to advance their agenda.  

Summing up recent meetings he held with each of French President Emmanuel Macron and German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, Hijab said that it is early to judge whether European support for political transition in Syria will continue.

“Europe has just emerged from a series of elections in which the alt-right challenged the decade-old traditional way of doing things.”

“Struggles to uphold political and economic stability, Europe is also tasked with controlling damage done by Britain’s decision to withdraw from the European Union,” Hijab explained.

Referring to growing migration and refugee crises worldwide, the ever-growing threat of terror groups, and other challenges, Hijab said that it is vital more than ever that Europe plays a “leading” role in settling the Syrian file. 

Reviewing the historic visit of US President Donald Trump to Saudi Arabia in May, Hijab said that it was a game-changer for rebels looking for support against a brutal dictatorship that is backed by foreign militaries. 

The summits held during Trump’s visit have helped strengthen an assuring military alliance that will step in to free Syrians from the suffering they experience, after years of diplomacy proving futile with Assad’s regime, said Hijab. 

“Riyadh has long served as the moderator of military and security in the Middle East, where it has been dealing with crises and extinguishing fires sparked by Iran in the region,” added Hijab.

“There is no doubt that the new alliance will play a major role in restoring balance and making safe zones a tangible reality.”

Hijab emphasized that Trump’s visit was only the first step in a journey of hard work accomplished by a promising team with a far-sighted strategic vision.

As for Iran-backed transgressions in Syria, Hijab highlighted that the recent entry of the Iraq-based Popular Mobilization Forces to Syrian territory comes as part of a comprehensive logistics strategy implemented by Iran in southern Syria to secure the Syrian-Iraqi border.

“This is undoubtedly part of an Iranian strategy aimed at undermining international consensus to establish safe areas in the country.” 

Hijab said that the PMF verify as an occupying force, “so do all Tehran-aligned sectarian militias and mercenary groups backing the regime in its crimes against defenseless Syrian people.” 

“We call for the withdrawal of all foreign forces and their replacement with UN peacekeepers,” added the former prime minister. 

Increasingly, Iran’s shadow war in Syria serves to threaten regional overall stability and eventually threatens international security. Since its inception, Tehran’s Islamic theocracy had hoped through its proxies to locally shoring up its expansionist agenda. 

Furthermore, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has declared that it was imperative that Iran confronted its enemies in Syria away from its own borders.

Examples of Iran supported militias abroad are PMF units in Iraq and the Lebanon-based “Hezbollah.”

The unrest in Syria grew out of discontent with the Assad regime and escalated to an armed conflict after protests calling for his removal were violently suppressed.
 

EU Ambassador to Lebanon: It’s Important to Hold Elections Under the Constitution

EU

Beirut – The head of the European Union Delegation to Lebanon, Ambassador Christina Lassen, said that Lebanese officials, with whom she has recently met, have expressed optimism towards an agreement over a new parliamentary electoral law.

The ambassador said she hoped that such an agreement would be reached soon and that parliamentary elections would be held in accordance with the Constitution.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Lassen said the proper functioning of state institutions was essential to preserve the country’s safety and stability.

“We have been hearing recently about much optimism in politicians’ stances regarding an agreement over a new electoral law, and this is very good to the country”, the EU official noted.

She stressed in this regard the European Union’s keenness on holding, as soon as possible, “fair and transparent elections”, in line with the Lebanese constitution.

She added that the EU delegation was ready to assist the country in holding and supervising the elections and organizing the electoral process.

On the security situation, Lassen said that since 2014, Lebanon has been facing a major security challenge, with the presence of terrorist groups on its borders with Syria.

She stressed that the Lebanese security forces have been carrying out “a very good job”, and were facing such threats with “high efficiency”.

The ambassador added that the EU was working with the Lebanese authorities to draft a national counter-terrorism strategy, in addition to cooperation in the field of aviation and airport safety, fighting violent extremism and countering terrorism financing through collaboration with the Lebanese central bank (BDL).

Asked about new measures adopted by the government to deal with the refugee crisis, Lassen underlined the major security and financial challenges the country was facing due to the heavy flow of Syrian refugees.

She praised the Lebanese government’s determination to set an economic vision to deal with such challenges and its decision to invest in infrastructure to create new job opportunities.

On the EU’s support to refugees in Lebanon, Lassen noted that over the past five years, the Union has greatly increased its assistance to the Syrian refugees and the Lebanese communities hosting them.

“The European Union has offered more than 2 billion Euros to Lebanon, including assistance provided by European states,” she said.

She also highlighted the importance of a recent project of 62 million Euros held in collaboration with the Lebanese heath ministry.

James Baker: Agreement Needed between Regional Players for Post-ISIS Era

Houston (Texas) – Former US Secretary of State James Baker said that regional players, who are seeking to find solutions to the region’s problems, should negotiate an agreement to deal with the period that will follow the defeat of ISIS.

He noted that while such negotiations would be very complicated, they were the only means to establish stability in the Middle East.

Baker highly valued the revival of the US-Saudi alliance in fighting terrorism, praising the Kingdom for establishing the “Etidal” (Moderation) Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, which was inaugurated in Riyadh in the presence of US President Donald Trump.

In an interview with Majalla Magazine, which is also published by Asharq Al-Awsat, the former US Secretary of State, who served under the term of former President George H.W. Bush, hailed Trump’s restoration of the US “historic policies”, which focus on cooperating with America’s allies in the region.

Asked about Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, Baker described it as very successful, noting that it had reflected a significant shift in emphasis regarding US policy.

“This trip made it very clear that the US wants to once again implement a policy toward our friends in the region that has been more historically the policy for quite some time. And that was the policy when I was secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush. We were strong allies in opposing the expansion of terror, and the other problems that stem from Iran,” he stated.

“That partnership will confront extremism and terrorism and will disseminate the values of tolerance and coexistence. It will bolster the security, stability, and cooperation needed in the region,” he added.

On efforts to resume the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, Baker said he was very hopeful that progress could be made.

However, the US official said that the Palestinian side was yet to appoint a negotiation representative.

“It is very good that the American president had good meetings with two of the most critical players in this issue: the Saudi and Israeli governments. But the fact still remains that there is really no true bargaining agent on behalf of the Palestinians,” he said.

He went on to say that during meetings between President Mahmoud Abbas and Trump, the two officials pledged to work together to forge a peace deal.

“There’s still a long, long way to go. The old questions of the past still remain. What about Jerusalem? What about boundaries of a two-state solution? What about right of return? Are the Israelis really committed to a two-state solution? So there’s a long way to go, and I’m just not sure about timing. I don’t know what happens to Hamas. And who’s going to be at the negotiating table for all of the Palestinians,” Baker said.

He underlined the need to implement the Arab proposal of 2002, which calls for the establishment of a two-state solution, based upon the land-for-peace formula of the 242 and 338 resolutions.

On Iran, the former US Secretary of State said that the US and its historic allies in the region would exert joint efforts to confront “those types of policy actions by Iran”.

“Closer US cooperation with Gulf States across the board is a very good thing,” he noted.

The US official went on to say that the nuclear deal should have been closely linked to guarantees by Iran to end its threats to the region and its support to terrorist organizations.

“My view of the Iran agreement – JCPOA — is that we never should have gotten into that negotiation in the beginning without tying the lifting of sanctions, in some way, to Iran’s behavior regarding terror and its activities in the region,” he noted.

On Syria, Baker stressed the need to push for a settlement in the war-torn country, by defeating ISIS and establishing a comprehensive ceasefire.

“Ultimately, of course, we need to find a way to an agreement that provides for a more representative and less repressive and, frankly, more decentralized Syrian state,” he noted.

He added that regional players “need to find a way to sit down and negotiate an agreement that will govern what happens after ISIS is defeated.”

Baker highlighted the importance of Saudi Arabia’s role to support Yemen.

“I certainly endorse providing logistical and intelligence support to the Kingdom. That was the policy under the [former US President Barack] Obama Administration, and it remains the policy under the Trump administration,” he said.

“I sympathize greatly with the Saudi position. I think it’s important to find a way to put together a negotiated settlement of that conflict,” Baker added.

HNC Leader: Assad Regime Rejects Political Transition, ‘We Are Betting on Russia’

UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura shakes hands with Syria's main opposition HNC leader Nasr al-Hariri prior to a round of negotiations at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva

London- Syria’s main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) leader Nasr al-Hariri said that his side doesn’t bet on the Syrian regime accepting political transition, saying that to do so is delusional.

He explained that the Syrian opposition is merely testing Russia’s true intentions and conviction towards a political settlement being the only way to end the six-year crisis ravaging Syria.

Such a political solution would be based on the premises outlined by the Geneva statement and the United Nations Security Council resolutions 2218 and 2254.

Hariri added that it is not possible to accept Iran as a guarantor state for the recently signed de-escalation zones agreement in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana.

“One of the major reservations is that Iran cannot be considered a guarantor state, given it has long shared the regime in its destruction, displacement, unwarranted demographic sieving, and besiegement against Syrians,” said Hariri.

During the fourth round of the Astana talks on May 3-4, a document envisaging the creation of four “de-escalation zones” on the ground where no military activity would be allowed, was signed.

“There is a proposed roadmap—however, the opposition remains reserved and hopes to ask for further explanations.”

It works on introducing no-fly areas and adequate conditions for humanitarian aid access.

The memorandum was signed by Russia, Turkey, and Iran. The parties also agreed to convene another meeting in Astana in mid-July, which will be preceded by a technical meeting of military experts two weeks prior in Ankara.

Relying on former acts of aggression staged by the regime of Bashar Al-Assad and Iran, Hariri said that Iran stepping down from its role as a guarantor state is central to end the escalation of the war.

As for terror militias which infected mass Syrian terrain, Hariri explained that “defeating the terror group ISIS is against the interests of the regime.”

The top Syrian opposition figure harshly criticized Kurdish-Arab “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF), supported by the US-led coalition.

“SDF units are terrorist forces— in the opinion of the Syrian opposition they are no different from ISIS,” Hariri said.

He also called for supporting the rebel-composed Free Syrian Army (FSA), considering it the sole true anti-ISIS Syrian force.

In a phone call interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Hariri said that his delegation was informed by the UN special envoy to Syria Sataffan De Mistura on a meeting with the Astana committee scheduled for later around 12-15 June, 2017.

In preparation for a sooner meeting on June 5- bringing together the HNC and the Astana committee – Hariri said that previous stages of Geneva negotiations and Astana talks must be run through a detailed evaluation.

More so, a critical assessment must cover recent political and field developments in Syria.

“Since the last meeting, there have been major developments on the ground in terms of continuing demographic change and ceasefire breaches to the agreement,” said Hariri.

“Even the ‘de-escalation’ zones were targeted by either the regime forces, Iran or Russia. Also, there are developments related to the Battle of Raqqa, in addition to the historic visit of US President Donald Trump to Riyadh, the important summits that took place there, and other developments,” he added.

“What we want is a comprehensive implementation and commitment to a nation-wide ceasefire so that rebel-controlled areas —which include unarmed civilians, infrastructure, public service and medical centers, and which have been incessantly targeted by the regime, Iran, and Russia— are no longer attacked.”

Commenting on a rumored dispute existing among rebels’ political representation and military wing, Hariri said that the quarrel has nothing to do with the political stance itself, but revolves mostly around disagreements on approaches and strategies.

Disagreement was first noticed when rebel delegates withdrew on multiple occasions from Geneva talks. However, Hariri reassured that it is in the process of being resolved amidst a positive atmosphere upheld by the opposition.

“Internal negotiations will be held in order to draft the most suitable framework for partaking negotiations while remaining faithful to core values of the revolution,” Hariri added.

Fadi al-Haber: Hezbollah Gave Aoun the Presidency and Controlled Lebanon

Aoun reviews the honour guards upon arrival to the presidential palace in Baabda

Beirut – Lebanese MP Fadi al-Haber said that Hezbollah has granted the presidency to General Michel Aoun and tightened its grip over the country through its arms and its interference in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

In an interview with Asharq al-Awsat, the Kataeb Party deputy said that his party was open to dialogue through constitutional and state institutions.

“We are dealing with all issues based on our beliefs to preserve the interests of the country and its people,” he stated.

He went on to say that the current government was implementing “the worst kinds of political practice”. “That’s why we are assuming our role in adjusting the path and correcting these mistakes,” Haber added.

The Lebanese deputy said his party was keen on preserving the Lebanese people’s interests “in light of the ongoing corruption, squandering and deals that are deliberately made.”

Asked about his party’s relations with the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) – Haber ruled out the presence of a dispute, noting that the parties had “divergent views”.

“Unfortunately, Hezbollah handed the presidency to General Michel Aoun and took control over the republic through its weapons and its interference in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen,” he stated.

He also accused Hezbollah of implementing Iranian agendas in Lebanon.

Haber noted that the Kataeb party was in disagreement with the Lebanese president over Hezbollah’s role and that it did not tolerate any armed presence over the Lebanese territories except for the Lebanese Army.

On the electoral law, Haber accused some political leaders and government officials of “dealing with superiority with others”, by imposing an electoral law that guarantees their personal interests.

As for the outcome of the Riyadh summits, the Kataeb deputy said he hoped the Lebanese would value the decisions that were issued at the outset of the US-Arab-Islamic Summit with regards to fighting terrorism and establishing fair and comprehensive peace in the region.

Twitter: Saudi Arabia Leads Growth in the Middle East

Dubai – Twitter’s Head of Sales in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region Benjamin Ampen said that the concept of security for the company on the platform is to maintain a system of values and criteria for the person who owns an account, whether identified or no.

Regarding to the continuous complaints from governments and regular people against the fake accounts many users create, Ampen said that Twitter does not allow users who have a record of involvement in illegal acts or hostile behaviors.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, he pointed out that Saudi Arabia is considered the engine of growth in the MENA region as it is among the first 10 most important countries for Twitter, yet the company’s office was inaugurated only two years ago in the Kingdom.

When asked about the future projects in the Kingdom, Ampen said that the company has two main approaches in Saudi Arabia. The first, he said, is related to entertainment and sports as it works very well during the Saudi football league.

“Most people interact on Twitter whenever there is a sport event,” Ampen told Asharq Al-Awsat, adding that the company invests so much time to develop its platform and its content to match the expectations and trends of Twitter users.

The second approach is working with developers and all local, international and regional brand names as “we are keen to connect them with important events such as Holy Ramadan, which is a very important occasion for advertisers to sell their products, by improving the content of our platform, especially the videos.”

Ampen said that Twitter considers the opinions and suggestions submitted by users and that it has a new way to help them tweet using more than the limited number of words by not counting the included links as characters.

He explained that the company also allowed users to comment on the re-tweeted tweets without counting these comments as part of the main tweet so that the users are able to express themselves more.

Twitter is one of the platforms used by ISIS and thus many governments raised complaints against the company’s slow reactions against these accounts. In this regard, Ampen said that Twitter is working so hard through its team to withhold illegal activities that are detected in a quick and direct manner.

“Because of the terrorist operations, Twitter has blocked 600,000 accounts affiliated with terrorist acts in the period between March and the end of 2016.

Bahrain Information Minister: Rule of Law is Stronger than Terrorism

Manama- Information Affairs Minister Ali bin Mohammed Al-Romaihi said he was “proud of the brotherly and honorable Saudi and Gulf positions, and the support of the sisterly and friendly states to the Kingdom of Bahrain concerning the legal steps taken to protect its security and stability and the safety of its citizens and residents.”

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Romaihi said those Arab and Gulf positions come to “prove that the Arab Gulf security is indivisible, could not be separated from Arab national security, and will remain an obstacle to Iranian interventions, which are uncovered by the aggressive statements delivered by the leaders and agents of its terrorist parties in the region.”

The information minister asserted that Manama would continue to implement legal measures and to impose deterrent judicial verdicts against extremist and terrorist organizations and their members, adding that his country “entered a new phase of zero-tolerance with those responsible for inciting strife and terrorism.”

Romaihi also said that the success of the Bahraini security apparatuses in imposing the rule of law represented a guarantee to protect the rights of citizens and residents and helped in tightening the noose on the terrorist militants, those financially supporting them and the foreigners who are inciting them to commit the wrongdoing.

Romaihi said that thanks to the sacrifices and competencies of the loyal general security forces, Bahrain was lately capable of arresting 286 people, including terrorists and convicted felons. Some of them had been hiding in the house of the so-called Isa Qassim in the village of Diraz, in addition to some terrorists who had previously broken out from the prison of Jau.

Last January, the Jau prison was attacked by a group of armed men who killed one police officer, injured another and allowed 10 inmates convicted for terror crimes to escape.

Somali President: Defeat of Terrorism Paves Way for Economic Revival

Mogadishu– Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said that defeating terrorism would pave the way for reviving the economy.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper on the occasion of the passing of 100 days since he took office, Mohamed said that “changing the security situation” and overcoming terrorist threats, represented by ISIS and Al-Shabaab militant group, would allow the achievement of decent living conditions by stimulating economic growth and providing the Somalis with good job opportunities.

The Somali president said he “inherited a very difficult situation”, especially on the security level.

He noted in this regard that despite efforts exerted by the former government to counter terrorism, Al-Shabaab militants still represent “a real threat to stability in my country.”

“At the same time, I have inherited a difficult economic situation that does not allow the government to regularly pay the Army salaries,” he continued, stressing that the military institution was in need of comprehensive restructuring and rearmament.

As for social services, government’s capabilities are limited, according to the president, in particular with regards to health and educational services.

“I am not saying that we have to begin from nothing, but we have big challenges ahead compared to the available capacities,” he stated.

Asked about the reason he chose Saudi Arabia as his first state visit, Mohamed said: “This visit is a clear proof of the deep and historic relations between Somalia and the Kingdom.”

He underlined Saudi Arabia’s continuous support to Somalia at all levels. He added that Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz has expressed his keenness to help the African country in facing its challenges.

As for the support provided by the Kingdom, the president said that Saudi Arabia has assisted Somalia in rebuilding its army, fighting terrorism, launching reconstruction projects, as well as supporting the state budget and responding to the drought crisis.

With regards to rebuilding the army, Mohamed, who goes by the nickname “Farmajo”, said that the issue was a priority in the new government’s program.

“We are seeking to build a professional army that is able to protect the borders, defend the country’s sovereignty and achieve stability,” he stated.

As for the African Union peacekeeping forces in Somalia (AMISOM), the president said that the current plan was to drive Al-Shabaab militants out of the country within the next two yeas, and gradually start reducing the number of peacekeeping forces as of October 2018, in line with the ongoing negotiations.

Asked about the arms embargo on Somalia since the beginning of the 1990s, Farmajo said that ongoing sanctions on the country were limiting the army’s capabilities.

“The current project to reorganize and restructure the army would not be effective if it is not paralleled with the lifting of sanctions,” the president noted.

“We are committed to this demand because we know that the support, which is offered by the African Union forces, would not last,” he added.

On wearing the military uniform twice since taking office in February, the Somali president said: “This is to remind the Somali people that we are in an open war against terrorism represented by Al-Shabaab movement.”

“I do not believe in the military choice alone,” he said, noting that after his election, he called for dialogue with the movement and offered to grant amnesty to militants who abandon arms and violence.

“We should admit that not all Al-Shabaab militants are the same; there are those who believe there are citizens just like us and they reject violence; and others, who are very extremists and influenced by al-Qaeda and who would not accept dialogue,” he said.

Asked about his visit to the United Arab Emirates, the Somali president said that the UAE was one of the biggest supporters to his country, describing his meetings in Abu Dhabi as “successful at all levels”.

As for the assistance needed from Arab countries and institutions to support Somalia, Mohamed highlighted the importance of investing in the country’s “tremendous economic resources, which include natural resources, maritime wealth and agriculture, as well as infrastructure and transport”.

“This can create job opportunities for the youth, who represent 70 percent of the Somali population,” he said.

He added that his government was ready to provide the required facilities for Arab investments.

Airport International Group PSC CEO: Jordan’s QAIA to Handle 16 Million Travelers in 2032

Binger

Dubai – Speaking of his group’s recent partnership signed with Jordan’s government, Chief Executive Officer of Airport International Group PSC Kjeld Binger said that it ranked among the top 40 deals reached by both the private and public sectors worldwide.

The partnership exemplifies what is achievable when both sectors come together for a project that would benefit the whole local community.

“Our partnership with the Government of Jordan has emerged as one of the best 40 arrangements brokered between the public and private sectors around the world, reflecting a great example of what can be achieved when the two sectors meet to implement projects that benefit the entire community,” Binger told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He cited a former contract signed with Jordan’s prime gateway to the world, the Queen Alia International Airport (QAIA) that saw remarkable success. In 2016, QAIA saw a millions-worth expansion project be completed under budget and ahead of schedule.

“The past decade has been a great experience for us all at the International Airport Group and Queen Alia International Airport,” said Binger.

Increasingly, he said that investment opportunities in Jordan remain optimistic despite regional turbulence. He said the country holds potential needed for becoming the region’s next top tourism destination, given its geographic location.

“Overcoming challenges has helped establish QAIA as one of the most important airports in the Middle East,” Binger added.

“Our experience in Jordan has been – and continues to be – a positive one.”

Jordan is nestled just off Gulf waters, with accessible flights and year-on festivals, its economic development would tap into the country’s prosperity.

After the upgrade, QAIA received a record-breaking 7.4 million passengers, marking a 4.4 increase since 2015. Airfield traffic saw a slight rise of 73,700 takeoffs, and a growth rate of 2.8 percent, more than 2015.

“We have been able to benefit from the vast experience of our regional and international partners in airport management and construction—it all played well into rehabilitating, expanding and operating QAIA,” Binger explained.

The second phase of the QAIA expansion and development efforts was launched in 2016 under the patronage of Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah II.

“One of the vital improvements made was the increase in passenger capacity, which rose to 12 million passengers, nearly three million more than during the first phase of the project,” Binger said.

Passenger capacity was augmented by the recent addition of 12 terminals. QAIA now has a total of 25 active gates, including eight ground gates and 17 boarding bridges.

“Gates are operated by four upgraded jet bridges and two fixed bridges designed to serve large-scale aircraft, such as the twin-decker Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger jet,” Binger said.

According to Binger, QAIA now has more sophisticated facilities, including two business lounges, two duty free market areas, four new prayer rooms, larger size flight screens, additional cell phone charging outlets and an upgraded Wi-Fi system.

As for infrastructure, the airport now enjoys an additional 10 mobile bridges, 24 escalators and 18 elevators. Facilitating passenger navigation within the airport, the add-ons allow passengers to board their flights and move around the QAIA easily and more freely.

“We also plan to further develop the infrastructure to increase passenger capacity to 16 million by 2032, establishing Queen Alia International Airport as a regional hub for leisure and business travel,” said Binger.

Jordan PM: Our Strategy Aims to Encourage the Private Sector to Have Central Role in Investment

Jordan's new Prime Minister Hani al-Mulqi speaks to the media after the swearing-in ceremony for the new cabinet at the Royal Palace in Amman

Dubai – Jordan’s Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki said that his country has adopted a strategy to stimulate economic growth for the years 2018-2022, based on the vision of King Abdullah II to provide Jordanians with a stable and safe society.

In an interview with Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, the prime minister said that the investment policy in the country was focused on many targets, including the active involvement of the private sector.

“We have adopted the Economic Growth Plan 2018-2022, which was based on the vision of King Abdullah II, to guarantee economic growth and social and economic prosperity,” Mulki said.

“Based on the principles of freedom, justice, equality, respect for human rights and the provision of equal opportunities, Jordan aims to ensure economic growth and social and political prosperity,” he stated.

He added that the plan included economic and financial strategies distributed on different sectors, in form of policies, governmental projects, and investments, all in cooperation with the private sector.

The plan also aims at promoting and stimulating the business and investment environment, increasing competitiveness and maximizing investment opportunities.

Mulki noted in this regard that the government has set 95 measures aimed at implementing economic reforms at a cost of JOD 635 million, in addition to 85 governmental projects with a value of JOD 6.2 billion, and 27 investment opportunities for the private sector worth JOD 9.5 billion.

Jordan’s investment strategy, according to the prime minister, had several objectives, including the creation of job opportunities, promoting productivity and the added value of products and services, as well as providing a competitive environment for local and international investments to contribute to economic growth.

He also stressed the importance of activating the role of the private sector as a major engine in the process of comprehensive and sustainable development to achieve growth and employment opportunities.

Asked about incentives and facilitations provided by the government to attract Arab and foreign investors, Mulki said that his country has committed to a number of reforms, which call for reducing financial and administrative burdens, promoting the quality of local products and services and providing the adequate infrastructure for investments across the country.

He added that all concerned authorities were committed to the implementation of the best international practices with regards to investment and related economic procedures.

Asked about investment opportunities in Jordan in the wake of the launching of the Saudi-Jordanian Investment Fund, the prime minister said that investment opportunities included projects in the water sector and other desalination projects, as well as investments in the energy and oil sectors.