[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your assessment of the new regulation for Iraqis entering Jordan? Are they received well by Iraqi investors and businessmen?
[Al-Qadi] The purpose of the new entry regulations for Iraqis was to facilitate their entry even further and to carryout the directives of His Majesty King Abdullah II to treat Iraqis as brothers, because that is what they are – not as foreigners and refugees. The fact of the matter is that security measures were necessary to protect Jordanians as well as Iraqis, especially as we received information relating to the conduct of some of them in Iraq – not Jordan. The measures taken were merely precautionary, neither more nor less.
There are no serious obstacles for the entry of Iraqis, other than those relating to security. In fact the obstacles are much less than before and had little effect on the number of Iraqi businessmen and investors coming to Jordan. Their numbers in Jordan are still reasonable.
Things have settled now, in the sense that those who wished to come to Jordan have already done so, whether they came for tourism, medical treatment, or investment. But there is a noticeable increase in the numbers of Iraqis moving in and out, more than before. Last January 18,300 Iraqis entered Jordan; in March the number increased to 20,200, while those who departed numbered20, 000 in January, and 19,000 in March 2009.
As for entry visas, the ministry of the interior issued4, 600 visas in January, while in March, it issued 7,300 visas. This indicates an increase in the number of Iraqis, whether visitors or in transit.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Why does the Jordanian interior ministry insist on banning Iraqi drivers from entering Jordan?
[Al-Qadi] Iraqi drivers can apply directly to the Jordanian interior ministry, or through offices of the TNT Company in Baghdad, or through the companies they work for, or through our diplomatic missions abroad, for a multiple entry visa valid for six months, renewable for another six months by application to the Ministry of the interior, where it can be renewed immediately.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are you going to accompany the prime minister in his upcoming visit to Baghdad?
[Al-Qadi] If there were issues concerning the ministry of the interior in our relations with Iraq, I would be happy to accompany the prime minister.
With regard to Jordanian prisoners in Iraq; we are talking to our Iraqi brothers. The Iraqi interior minister has visited me and we met a week ago in Beirut. Our relations with the Iraqis are open and it is easy to talk about any issue. There is no tension in our relations. The relations are open and have started to take a political dimension, more than before, where it used to be confined to humanitarian, commercial and economic relations. There is now a political dimension to the relations with Iraq and the relations are developing, especially after the meeting of His Majesty King Abdullah II, with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, at the Doha Arab summit, which gave the relations a push forward.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] With regard to Syria, are the security committees still meeting to discuss outstanding issues? And are we soon going to see a new border marking between the two countries?
[Al-Qadi] There is a joint Syrian-Jordanian committee that meets every now and then to complete the marking of the borders between the two countries. The work is progressing well and a meeting is expected to be held in the coming few weeks to put the last touches on this file. The last meeting held in Damascus was good and promising.
Our relations with the Syrian brothers are excellent and the visit of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Amman has given the relations a new push forward.
With regard to the issue of water, we are talking to our Syrian brothers every now and then about this matter and we believe that, as long as talks are continuing, we are bound to reach a satisfactory solution for both parties.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What was Jordan’s reaction to Syria’s refusal to allow entry to Jordanians whose passports had an Israeli stamp?
[Al-Qadi] This decision is up to our Syrian brothers; we hope that Jordanians whose passports carry an Israeli stamp would be allowed entry into Syria.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is the government’s reaction toward the statements of Arhil al-Gharaybah – the Deputy Secretary General of the ‘Islamic Action Front’? Do these statements indicate that the honeymoon between the government and the Islamists is over?
[Al-Qadi] We deal with The Islamic Action Front as a Jordanian party that we respect and in accordance with Jordanian law regarding political parties. They should operate in accordance with the law and Jordanian interests; anything else is unacceptable. With due respect to all licensed parties in accordance with the law, I would like to stress that the government is not harboring any ill-intentions towards the Islamists or their parties.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Jordanians feel frightened by and apprehensive about the issue of the regions, especially as it came after the war on Gaza?
[Al-Qadi] The project is part of a vision of His Majesty King Abdullah II; he set up a committee that included a number of statesmen known for their nationalist roles and their proposals were formulated and adopted in 2006. The purpose of the project is to create a decentralized administrative system based on wider and effective participation by Jordanian citizens through locally elected representatives to the councils of local government and municipalities and to participate in a comprehensive democratic process and development and to distribute the benefits to the regions and governorates on the basis of equality and justice. Development through the regions is a means for comprehensive development throughout the kingdom. Accordingly, fear, apprehension, doubt and describing the project as part of a regional or international plan is baseless; the project is Jordanian par excellence and has no external political dimensions or regional and international effects.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is the Jordanian position towards Hamas? Are there any contacts with its leadership? And what is the Palestinian authority’s reaction to Jordan’s active role in the Gaza Strip in distributing humanitarian aid?
[Al-Qadi] Hamas is an organization operating on Palestinian territory and we have no particular position towards them in isolation from Jordan’s position towards the Palestinian people. We support the right of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state on their national land with Jerusalem as the capital. We support Palestinian legitimacy [the Palestinian Authority], and Jordan is providing humanitarian assistance to brothers and siblings who were the latest victims of the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you deal with Hamas?
[Al-Qadi] We deal with Hamas in its capacity as part of the Palestinian people and we deal with it through the Palestinian legitimacy. The humanitarian aid that we send to Gaza, including the field hospital, is for the Palestinian people – we do not distinguish between Fatah, Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Hamas is one of the organizations with which we deal as a whole. Officially we do not deal with one Palestinian organization at the expense of the other and we aim to reconcile the Palestinian people and establish the Palestinian state, because that is a Palestinian as well as a Jordanian concern. We do not, and we will not separate ourselves from the Palestinian people, neither today or in the future. Our aim is to see them united, not allow divisions, and to succeed through them in establishing the Palestinian state. After that, our relations with them will continue as before and we shall remain brothers for ever.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about the ‘files’ relating to the Palestinians?
[Al-Qadi] We have no problem with the Palestinians or with any Palestinian party. From the very beginning we have tried to establish the best unity in Arab history, but regrettably the Arab brothers, including Palestinian brothers did not recognize that unity, and therefore at the Rabat Summit, they asked for disengagement [between the West Bank and the Jordan]. We accepted what the Arab brothers have proposed. Any fair person should admit this. Our aim has always been to protect the Palestinian identity and we in Jordan were the first to defend the Palestinian cause.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Some people are talking of new government measures regarding bridges between Jordan and the West Bank?
[Al-Qadi] There are no new arrangements for ingress and egress on the bridges between the Jordanian Kingdom and the West Bank. At any rate all Jordanian measures have always been made out of concern for the protection of the Palestinian cause, for making life less difficult for the Palestinians, and to save them the sufferings of the Palestinian brothers of1948.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is there Jordanian-Saudi cooperation in combating terrorism? Is Jordan concerned with Saudi efforts in combating terrorism? And what is the extent of Jordanian cooperation with Saudi Arabia?
[Al-Qadi] Saudi Arabia and Jordan are tied together with brotherly relations based on mutual respect and cooperation. Saudi-Jordanian cooperation is at an all time high, especially in the field of combating terrorism. There are continuous contacts and meetings between the security apparatus in the two countries fighting this plague. Saudi Arabia and Jordan supply each other with the information and documents they have, in order to contain the dangers of terrorism in both countries.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Some have accused Jordan of prior knowledge of Israeli raids in Sudan, said to be carried out against a caravan carrying weapons for Hamas?
[Al-Qadi] Such talk is part of the abuse directed against Jordan by those bearing grudge against Jordan and Palestine and the fraternal relationship between the two peoples.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Some international organizations are still talking about violations of civil liberties in Jordan, whether with regard to prisons, freedom of association and the formation of trade unions or with regard to freedom of expression and demonstrations. What is your reply to this?
[Al-Qadi] Civil liberties and the freedom of expression are guaranteed by the constitution. Jordan has opened the door wide for international and civil society organizations to deal with the issues of prisons, marches and demonstrations organized by political parties and trade unions and all sections of civil society, in conformity with law and order, and in a manner that does not disturb the peace.
Reports issued by human rights organizations have an idealistic outlook that Jordan hopes to achieve shortly.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Following the stumbling peace process and the war on Gaza, is it true that Jordan has asked the Israeli authorities that Israeli officials do not visit Jordan?
[Al-Qadi] It is Jordan’s right to practice its relations with the outside world on the basis of its interests. Our relations with Israel are governed by a peace treaty and we practice our policies with the Israeli authorities in the way that serves Jordan’s interests as well as the interests of our Palestinian brothers.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] When would the child of a Jordanian mother and a non-Jordanian father be able to acquire Jordanian nationality?
[Al-Qadi] This will be done in the light of law and order and under conditions that preserve the interests of Jordanians and Jordan and preserve the Palestinian identity. Many Jordanian women are married to Palestinians carrying Palestinian [refugee] documents, and we are keen to preserve their nationality, while offering facilities relating to residence, health, education and other means that allow them to live with dignity.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Why, in your view, there are no effective political parties in Jordan, even though the law has allowed the establishment of political parties since 1989?
[Al-Qadi] Jordanian political parties are present and effective and operate under the law and order. There is nothing to prevent them from activating their roles.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is there any intention to amend the law relating to political parties?
[Al-Qadi] For the time being there is no intention to amend the law, despite objections by some parties to the conditions required by the law, especially those requiring that the party membership be no less than 500. The law in force was adopted by parliament and was discussed by all civil society organizations, including the political parties. There are Jordanian political parties operating in the Jordanian arena in accordance with this law and they have achieved the pre-requisite conditions. The ministry has no problem with the parties which have adapted their situation to conform to the law.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are smuggling operations still going on in Jordan?
[Al-Qadi] Smuggling operations, I believe, are part of a social problem. As for us in Jordan, we are a conduit for smuggling, but thank God we are not plagued with drugs and we are not a station for collecting weapons to be smuggled to neighboring Arab countries. What is happening is that some people are exploiting our vast borders to smuggle contraband to neighboring countries. But the armed forces and customs are ready to combat smuggling and we have achieved tangible results in this respect.