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Jordan’s king says he would support a Middle East version of NATO

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Jordan’s King Abdullah said he would support the formation of a Middle East military alliance similar to NATO, and that it can be done with countries that are like-minded.
Thomas Kronsteiner | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Jordan’s King Abdullah II said he would support the formation of a Middle East military alliance similar to NATO, and that it can be done with countries that are like-minded.

The kingdom works actively with NATO and sees itself as a partner of the alliance, having fought “shoulder-to-shoulder” with NATO troops for decades, the monarch told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble on Wednesday.

“I’d like to see more countries in the area come into that mix,” he said.

“I would be one of the first people that would endorse a Middle East NATO,” Abdullah said.

But the vision of such a military alliance must be very clear, and its role should be well defined, he added.

“The mission statement has to be very, very clear. Otherwise, it confuses everybody,” he said.

Cooperation in the region

Besides potential security and military cooperation, countries in the Middle East are starting to work together to address the challenges that have arisen from the war in Ukraine, the king said.

“All of us are coming together and saying ‘how can we help each other’,” he said.

“Help each other,” he emphasized, “which is, I think, very unusual for the region.”

Energy and commodity prices have soared following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Jordan is an energy importer, but Abdullah noted that a nation with oil but no wheat will also need help.

Countries in the region recognize the goal needs to be a win-win solution, he said.

“If I’m okay and you’re not, I’m going to end up paying the price” because regional projects will be affected, he said.

“I’m hoping what you’re seeing in 2022 is this new vibe, I guess, in the region to say, ‘how can we connect with each other and work with each other’,” he added.

Roadblocks?

The Israel-Palestinian conflict, for example, has the potential to derail plans and cooperation in the Middle East.

“If they’re not talking to each other, that creates insecurities and instability in the region that will affect regional projects,” he told CNBC.

Iran’s role in the region is also a question mark.

“Nobody wants war, nobody wants conflict,” he said. But it remains to be seen whether countries in the Middle East can work toward a vision where “prosperity is the name of the game,” he added.

Specifically, Jordan faces challenges because of energy costs, water scarcity and an influx of refugees.

Jordan recently announced a 10-year plan to revive its sluggish economy and reduce high levels of unemployment. The economic modernization vision aims to create jobs for a million Jordanians and spur economic growth in the kingdom.

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