Canadian PM Harper arrives in Jordan, meets with King Abdullah II. Smart move. Here’s why.

Stephen Harper shakes hands with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the Royal Palace in Amman on January 23 , 2014 prior to their meeting. (Photo credit: AFP)

Stephen Harper shakes hands with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the Royal Palace in Amman on January 23 , 2014 prior to their meeting. (Photo credit: AFP)

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made his first state visit to Jordan today, meeting with King Abdullah II, and announcing new humanitarian relief support for Canada’s most important Arab ally. Harper and his wife, Laureen, and part of their Canadian delegation have just completed a four-day visit to Israel. They will spend Thursday and Friday in Jordan.

It’s a smart move. Here’s why.

Canada’s evangelical Christian Prime Minister has developed very warm and close ties to the Israelis. Indeed, as I have noted often, Harper is the most pro-Israel leader on the planet.

That’s good, but it not enough. Now it’s vital that he forge deep ties with Jordan’s monarch.

Abdullah is the most moderate, peaceful and strategically-savvy Reformer/leader in the Arab world. He is building upon the extraordinary legacy of his father, the late-King Hussein, who battled Radicals, worked closely with Britain and the U.S., and forged a peace treaty with Israel in 1994. But Abdullah faces enormously serious challenges — a small territory, no oil, few other natural resources, a highly-educated population but not enough economic growth, extremist groups that want to topple his regime, and fellow Arab leaders who don’t all appreciate his moderate, pro-Western approach, especially with regards to peace with the Jewish “cousins” next door.

The fact is: King Abdullah and his nation need all the sincere, smart, principled friends and allies they can get. Harper and his nation are ideally suited to be such friends, and build a long-term relationship that can benefit both countries.

  • Canada has oil and natural gas that could be a blessing to Jordan.
  • Canada has high-tech businesses that can invest and expand into the Jordanian economy, creating jobs.
  • Canadians should be encouraged to take tours both to Israel and to Jordan.
  • Canadians are moderate, peaceful people who want to help build a stable, secure Middle East.

So Harper was right to plan two-days in Jordan on this trip to the epicenter. He sees the opportunity, and my early sense is that he is moving wisely.

“Harper began [the visit] with a roundtable discussion that included a variety of business officials,” reported The Canadian Press. “Harper, who was accompanied by International Trade Minister Ed Fast, made brief remarks about the importance of the Canadian-Jordanian relationship. Others at the roundtable included Nayef Stetieh, the president of the Jordanian-Canadian Business Association and Royal Jordanian Airlines chairman H.E. Nasser Lozi. Harper then had lunch with the king in an ornate room at the royal palace overlooking Amman….atri refugee camp, which is home to tens of thousands of Syrian refugees who have fled their country.”

“Canada is providing $100-million to Jordan to help it deal with the influx of refugees from Syria — with much of the money going towards propping up the country’s overloaded child education system,” reports the National Post. “The announcement was made Thursday by Prime Minister Stephen Harper after a meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II.”

“Jordan continues to show compassion and generosity by receiving Syrian refugees fleeing the crisis in their country,” Harper said in a prepared statement. “Our government is committed to helping them address the challenges posed by the Syrian conflict. The support announced today will help ensure that all children in Jordan, whether local or refugees, have access to a proper education.”

“Since the civil war began in Syria, about 576,000 refugees have fled to Jordan and now comprise about nine per cent of the country’s total population. This has put a tremendous strain on Jordan’s financial resources,” the Post noted. “Some of those refugees have ended up in massive tent camps while many others have ended up in Jordanian cities.”…..

The Post also reported that:

  • The new funds promised Thursday are in addition to previously announced Canadian commitments for Jordan which include:
  • $110-million to support development projects to ease the impact in Jordan of the refugee crisis, in areas such as health.
  • 41.6-million for Jordan to mitigate the threat posed by Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons.
  • $26.4-million for humanitarian assistance projects in Jordan, with the funds being delivered through bodies such as the United Nations, and the Red Cross movement. The money is spent in areas such as emergency shelter, food, nutrition, clean water and sanitation.