(Amman, Jordan) — The “disaster” in Syria could lead to the “spread of extremism and terrorism,” says a senior Jordanian official, urging the international community to do more to “step up” and help negotiate a political solution while providing much-needed additional financial resources to deal with the humanitarian crisis.
On Saturday, I interviewed Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. I hope to transcribe and publish the full interview soon. For now, let me highlight some of the key points he made about the Syrian crisis and how it is affecting the Hashemite Kingdom and the region.
Some 1.3 million men, women and children have fled from the devastating civil war in Syria to Jordan in the last four years, Judeh (pronounced “Juday”) told me. This includes some 600,000 “registered” refugees, but there are another 700,000 who are not officially registered with the Jordanian government.
Only Lebanon has received as many Syrians as Jordan.
“This is a race I’m happy to lose,” he said.
On Sunday, Judeh will convene a meeting of officials from five nations in the region at the Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan to discuss the “humanitarian disaster” unfolding and how best to manage the swelling crisis. These include the foreign ministers from Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan. It is the third such meeting in the last year. A key objective is to persuade the international community to “step up to the challenge” and provide more financial resources to each of the countries trying to feed, clothe and house the refugees, even as they help the parties in Syria come to a negotiated political solution sooner rather than later.
The Foreign Minister said he is hoping we won’t see a “decades-long meltdown of Syria.” However, he said the Kingdom is deeply concerned about the “rise and spread of extremism and terrorism” emanating from Syria.
A senior advisor to Judeh told me he worries less about the “implosion” of Syria than its “explosion.” He said the utter collapse of Syria could send jihadi terrorists and foreign fighters spreading into neighboring countries in the region to attack the innocent and try to topple other regimes.
“Jordan has been the target of many threats over the years,” the Foreign Minister said, “but Jordan has survived.” He described the King’s approach as “a model of moderation and modernity,” but noted that “we are a target because of our achievements.”
That said, despite the jihadist threat, and the forces of the so-called “Arab Spring” that have brought down the governments of Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, Judeh said the Hashemite Kingdom has learned over the last nine decades how to handle threats and upheavals and maintain a stable, peaceful country.
He said Jordan is “extremely grateful” for U.S. financial assistance to the Kingdom, and the additional funds that have been provided to assist the refugees, noting U.S.-Jordanian relations are “very, very good.”
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