Romanian FM: Jordan’s vaccination of refugees "a model of solidarity"

[04-04-2021 11:45 AM]

Ammon News - Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Bogdan Aurescu on Sunday said Jordan’s COVID-19 vaccination program for refugees and asylum seekers is a model of solidarity in the region and beyond.

In a wide ranging interview with the Jordan News Agency, the minister said Jordanian-Romanian relations are ever-growing at bilateral and multilateral levels and that the two countries see eye-to-eye on a wide range of international issues.

"Jordan is a very special and reliable partner in this region, exercising balanced and reasoned approaches, essential for regional stability," according to Aurescu who is starting an official visit to the Kingdom today. He indicated that he is looking forward to an "excellent dialogue, which will contribute to the consolidation of our traditional ties and through which we also aim at further expanding our sectorial cooperation in fields such as IT&C, medicine and telecommunications."

Moreover, the minister noted, the Romanian delegation is prepared to sign a set of bilateral documents which will allow us to enhance our cooperation in the fields of justice and emergency situations.
"Thus, we will sign a series of important bilateral agreements - on the cooperation between the Ministries of Justice of our countries, on extradition, and on the cooperation in the field of prevention, limitation and elimination of the effects of disasters," he said.

Following is the full text of the interview in a Q&A format:

1. What is the significance of Your visit to Jordan in light of the developments in the region? It is an honor to pay my first visit of this year in this region to Amman, following the extensive discussions last year with my Jordanian colleague, Minister Ayman Safadi, which I recall with great pleasure. He was also a special guest at the Annual Meeting of the Romanian Diplomacy last autumn, held in an online format for the first time ever. I am glad I can finally meet Minister Safadi in person and I am sure our consultations will mark a special moment in our bilateral relations.

I look forward to an excellent dialogue, which will contribute to the consolidation of our traditional ties and through which we also aim at further expanding our sectorial cooperation in fields such as IT&C, medicine and telecommunications.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our ways of living and working, with significant economic consequences, this visit also bears a message of much needed solidarity and cooperation in facing joint challenges, be they local, regional or global.

Moreover, the Romanian delegation is prepared to sign a set of bilateral documents which will allow us to enhance our cooperation in the fields of justice and emergency situations. Thus, we will sign a series of important bilateral agreements - on the cooperation between the Ministries of Justice of our countries, on extradition, and on the cooperation in the field of prevention, limitation and elimination of the effects of disasters.

On a different note, I take this opportunity to draw your attention on another important matter - in February this year, the European Commission and the European External Action Service presented a comprehensive Communication aimed at re-launching and strengthening the strategic partnership between the European Union and its Southern Neighborhood partners.

The ambitious and innovative New Agenda for the Mediterranean is based on the firm belief that by working in a spirit of partnership, we can prevail and turn our common challenges into opportunities. As EU member state, Romania has welcomed and supported this document.

As a close friend of Jordan, we stand ready to support your country in establishing key priorities and developing projects that will build on its economic potential and foster sustainable development, with the help of EU funding. The Economic and Investment Plan provided by this New Agenda already includes flagship investments for Jordan in areas such as inclusive economy, green energy, and waste management, which is a very promising beginning.

2. How do you view the relations between the two countries after 55 years of establishing diplomatic ties?

More than half a century of diplomatic ties is, in itself, an indication of our excellent bilateral relations with the Kingdom. Our ever-growing relations at bilateral and multilateral level are based, inter alia, on the convergence of views on a wide range of international issues. Jordan is a very special and reliable partner in this region, exercising balanced and reasoned approaches, essential for regional stability.

Our special partnership also relies on our shared values and interests, such as preserving international peace and security, promoting a rules-based global order, sustainable economic growth and youth education.

We are also keen on expanding our bilateral investments and trade, as priorities of our foreign relations’ agenda and I plan to discuss economic cooperation in pragmatic terms during my meetings in Amman.

Besides the political, economic and cultural ties, we particularly value and appreciate the role of approximately 13,000 Jordanian citizens who graduated from Romanian universities and who are now successful specialists with significant experience in various fields in your country. The role of the Romanians living and working here in Jordan is also significant. These interconnected communities and real people-to-people contacts are a bridge between our two countries and cultures, facilitating stronger political contacts.

3. How do you perceive Jordan’s role in achieving stability and moderation in the region? Is there coordination and consultation between our two friendly countries? What about the existing partnership between the two countries?

As I previously mentioned, Romania highly appreciates the Kingdom’s efforts for regional peace, stability and prosperity. In this context, I would like to commend the tireless activity of His Majesty King Abdullah II in supporting the international efforts against terrorism, violent extremism and radicalization. These are extremely complex phenomena, which require in-depth knowledge and multi-faceted responses, including through the value-added initiative of the Aqaba Process.

Furthermore, we appreciate the important role played by Jordan in the Middle East Peace Process and we welcome the recent meaningful talks to achieve peace in the region within the Amman Format, also called the Munich Group.

We acknowledge the Jordanian outstanding work as a key player engaged in developing the relationships between the MENA region and the EU, including by assuming the Co-Presidency of the Union for the Mediterranean.

Romania and Jordan cooperate as like-minded partners in the framework of EU-driven formats, as well as on various topics of relevance within the framework of NATO and at multilateral level.

We hold regular consultations with our Jordanian partners on ways of expanding our bilateral ties and addressing regional issues, the most recent being conducted online, at MFA level, less than a month ago. These frequent contacts provide the framework for fruitful exchanges of views and assessments on the MEPP file. As underlined during our talks, Romania will continue to advocate for a long-term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on a fair, comprehensive and sustainable agreement, in accordance with the "two-state solution", Israel and Palestine, to coexist in peace and security.

Moreover, it is my pleasure to announce that Romania will increase its contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to 150.000 EUR for 2021, a threefold increase compared to previous years.

This is a firm proof of our support for the organization’s capacity to implement its mandate effectively in assisting and protecting Palestinian refugees, many of whom reside in Jordan. We also encourage other partners to increase their contribution to the agency.

4. Is there cooperation to combat COVID-19, and has the pandemic negatively affected the economic cooperation between the two countries?

Our countries and the entire world have gone through exceptional circumstances over the past year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This crisis has had a strong impact on our countries and regions, with far-reaching and unprecedented consequences, and has also underlined the importance of acting in solidarity to address its effects. Thus, Romania seeks to cooperate with its European and international partners, as well as traditional allies, such as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

I would like to commend the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for its COVID-19 response strategy and successful vaccination campaign, and I hope that your country’s efforts will yield positive and long-lasting results. We also commend Jordan’s COVID-19 vaccination program for refugees and asylum seekers, as a model of solidarity in the region and beyond.

We highly appreciated the Jordanian support to repatriate Romanian citizens in 2020 and we are also very grateful for the support and care that the Jordanian Government continues to extend towards the Romanian community living and working here. Your country’s openness and assistance in this crisis has been an authentic example of international solidarity and true friendship.

In addition to the considerable loss of human lives, the pandemic has strongly affected our economies. Thus, I believe that working together to expand and improve our economic cooperation beyond the crisis is the only way forward, and my visit to Amman stands proof of our commitment to recovery and further development. I firmly believe that, despite the health crisis and its economic fallout, we will continue to act towards enhancing our dialogue and collaboration, to the mutual benefit of our countries.

One important lesson we have learned during the pandemic crisis is the importance of strategic resilience of countries, societies and multilateral systems. To this end, cooperation and coordination with like-minded partners, who share the same values, stands at the core of reducing or ceasing dependencies on actors who act upon different views and interests and do not share our respect for multilateralism, the rules-based international order, international law and democracy.

5. How do you perceive the economic cooperation and what is the volume of trade?

We are very keen on strengthening our economic ties to their full potential, including through a more dynamic, pragmatic and pro-active approach. One of the goals of my presence here is to create positive prerequisites for boosting trade between our countries and for encouraging mutual investments. It also comes in support of the Romanian Government`s vision on the importance of the economic diplomacy. All considered, I believe we must find effective ways to make better use of the current potential - our expertise, workforce and available capital - and embark on more ambitious cooperation projects.

I have gladly noted that the volume of our economic trade has grown in the past year, despite the pandemic context. Thus, in 2020, bilateral trade reached 292.444 million USD, increasing by 16.26% compared to the 2019 level (of which 285.302 million USD Romanian exports and 7.142 million USD Jordanian imports). Romania ranks 11th in terms of exporting countries in the Kingdom and 3rd in the top of EU members.

Yet, we consider that the current exchanges between our countries do not reflect our economies’ full potential. Romanian and Jordanian companies should continue to explore new ways and areas of cooperation and expand their presence on our markets. The Romanian market, for instance, provides multiple advantages, including a favorable geographical position, which offers easy access to the main European and regional markets.

In addition, the Romanian Government attaches particular attention to enhancing economic relations in the fields of agriculture, IT&C, tourism, medical field, energy sector, constructions and telecommunications. At the same time, Romania is ready to put its comprehensive expertise in the area of energy at the disposal of interested stakeholders. One example: as previous developers of the Jordanian national electric grid, Romanian companies are interested in further participating to its development.

In terms of plans for the future, in order to increase economic exchanges, we intend to engage the private sector more actively and increase the number of promotional activities focused on the Jordanian business audiences. On the short term, we will continue to support and facilitate an increased role of the two business communities, more direct bilateral contacts, exchanges of business opportunities and investment projects. Nowadays, online platforms can facilitate exploratory contacts between our business communities and, once the epidemiological conditions allow, the terrain is already prepared for results.

I would also like to point out that Romania could become a constant source of goods and services for Jordan. Our offer covers diverse areas, from special equipment dedicated to the energy field, electronic parts, construction materials, various machine-tools, various types of vehicles, plastic products, glass and ceramic products, to articles made from wood and furniture, textiles or food products.

I am confident that all my meetings in Amman will give a new impetus to our bilateral economic relations. As I have mentioned before, the potential for economic cooperation is significant, and it has only been partly capitalized so far.

Moreover, the long-lasting tradition that we share in bilateral trade, industrial cooperation and training of specialists is also on our side. I am confident that we will take advantage of all these opportunities for encouraging our business communities to take a step forward, be creative and engage in a lucrative bilateral cooperation.

6. What about cultural and educational cooperation?

Romania and the Kingdom have long-standing relations in the fields of culture, education and people-to-people contacts. I have already referred to the 13,000 Jordanians who studied in Romania so far, and they represent a solid and valuable link between our countries. We are committed to further implement the Intergovernmental Program of Cooperation in the fields of education and culture, signed in 2019, that provides a legal basis for our bilateral scholarships program.

There is also an encouraging trend in our educational exchanges in the recent years. Since 2019, almost 900 Jordanians enrolled to study in Romanian universities. Romania is currently offering 30 scholarships for Jordanian students each year. There is also potential for further developing our bilateral relation in the field of academic mobility under the EU Erasmus+ umbrella, whose future perspectives in the new EU Multiannual Financial Framework are very promising.

7. What is your position on the Palestinian issue and the peace process?

As we have stated on numerous occasions, including during our Prime Minister’s and my visits to Palestine and Israel, in September and November 2020, Romania is and remains a firm supporter of international law.

Therefore, we advocate for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a just and comprehensive manner, in accordance with the two-state solution, as it is the only viable option for meeting the aspirations of both sides.

In this process, we consider that the involvement of, and coordination with the regional actors, such as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and also with the United States, remain of vital importance, as they can play an important role in unlocking and advancing the direct dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians.

8. A recent Romanian decision to transfer the Romanian embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has sparked negative reactions against Romania. How did you handle these reactions and did it affect Romania's relations with the regional states?

It is important for you and for the Jordanian public to know that Romania’s position regarding the status of Jerusalem, one of the final status issues in the MEPP, has always remained unchanged and in accordance with the international law and relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly. I would like to reiterate that any discussion regarding a possible relocation of our embassy can take place only after a final agreement on the status of Jerusalem is reached.

There have been some political declarations, back in 2019, regarding the transfer of our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. These have been clearly rejected by the President of Romania, who has the decisive prerogatives in foreign and security policy. As such, there was no step made or formal decision taken beyond such declarations.

With some special efforts of our diplomacy, I am glad to say, at this point, that our traditional and friendly relations with the Arab states and, particularly, with Palestine, continued to develop and grow, to the benefit of all parties.

In this vein, let me recall again that, in 2020, both the Romanian Prime Minister and I paid official visits in Palestine and Israel, during which our Prime Minister had a very fruitful dialogue with President Mahmoud Abbas. As a matter of fact, I discussed the results of this visits and the perspectives with Minister Safadi in September 2020 and I am sure we will further elaborate on this topic during our consultations on the 4th of April.

9. What is your position on regional issues, especially the Syrian issue?

Our position on these issues reconfirms, in fact, the strength of our friendship: Romania’s and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s views converge on many regional matters of great importance. As I said, Romania highly values Jordan’s efforts towards identifying political solutions to conflicts in the region, as well as its continued efforts in the fight against terrorism and radicalization, efforts to which, during the past few years, Romania has also shown itself willing to contribute, as part of the Global Coalition against Daesh.

Just like the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Romania encourages and supports political dialogue as a means of solving all conflicts and crises in the region, which affect, through their devastating consequences, not only the Middle East, but the entire world. The conflict in Syria is now entering its 11th year and we continue to witness its devastating consequences on millions of civilians and refugees.

It is now time for renewed discussions and an increased involvement of the EU and of the international community. Romania fully supports a political solution to the Syrian conflict in accordance with UNSCR 2254 and the Geneva Communiqué. Only an inclusive, comprehensive, political solution can bring lasting peace and allow stabilization of the region and the safe and dignified return of internally displaced persons and refugees. We now need to act firmly and decisively in support of efforts for the implementation of a political solution. Romania stands ready to contribute, alongside the EU, to renewed international efforts in this direction.

On March 30, I attended the Brussels V Conference where I have announced, on behalf of Romania, a new pledge in support of the future of Syria and the region, dedicated to humanitarian assistance for Syrian refugees and strengthening resilience of neighbouring refugee-host countries in the region, such as Jordan. This is a renewed opportunity for the international community to show support for an inclusive, comprehensive political solution that can ultimately bring long awaited, lasting peace, in accordance with the international law and the will of the Syrian people.

We appreciate the significant efforts made by Jordan to accommodate Syrian refugees since the beginning of the crisis, hosting and providing them with basic humanitarian assistance and social services. We commend the solidarity and generosity of Jordanian people and Jordanian authorities, while we remain, at the same time, aware of costs and challenges incurred on health and humanitarian systems as a consequence of the prolonged crisis, even more now given the high pressure placed on these systems all around the world because of COVID-19.

Since the beginning of the crisis, the EU and EU Member States, including Romania, have tried to help Syrian refugee-hosting countries shoulder the burden, including through direct support or UN specialized bodies, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or the World Food Program (WFP). We have also contributed with a total of more than 27 million euros up to now to the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey. The Romanian Government will continue to deliver upon all its humanitarian pledges and remains committed to continue assistance through predictable funding.

We will continue to support the efforts made by the international community in this direction. I am convinced that by working together we will find ways to support renewed hope for Syria, the Syrian people and the region."


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