The Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani’s visit to Amman on February 23 indicates a strengthening of ties between both countries after the Gulf crisis had initially soured their long-standing relations, in defiance of increased regional polarization.

Al Thani and Jordan’s King Abdullah II sought to advance bilateral cooperation between both states, while addressing issues such as the Palestinian cause following the so-called Deal of the Century.

The Qatari Emir tweeted that his visit had improved “fraternal relations and increased cooperation between the two countries in several fields such as investment, sports, energy and exchange of experiences, as well as the process of joint Arab action and the interests of the peoples of the region aspiring to enhance solidarity to meet the challenges that surround [them] all.”

Qatar displayed keenness to restore its fractured relations with different countries after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt imposed a blockade on the small Gulf state in June 2017 and severed diplomatic ties.

After initially downgrading its relations with Doha along with several other Arab and African states, in line with the so-called “Anti-Terror Quartet’s” antagonistic stance, Jordan has recently shown increased warmth towards Qatar.

Last June saw a significant thawing in their frosty relations after Jordan and Qatar mutually re-appointed ambassadors, following increased communication in early 2018.

Last June saw a significant thawing in their frosty relations after Jordan and Qatar mutually re-appointed ambassadors, following increased communication in early 2018.

“Jordan was never happy to be part of any sort of regional coalition. Yet it was initially difficult for Jordan to retains its independence during this regional polarization,” Osama al Sharif, a Jordanian journalist and political commentator, told Inside Arabia. “Though it did not want to disrupt its ties with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, it was reluctant to support their stance. Therefore, it did not completely end ties to the extent in which others did.”

The Gulf crisis had forced many states to choose between supporting Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s stance, or face punishment – as was the case when Abu Dhabi withdrew its aid programs to Somalia for its relations with Turkey and Qatar. Saudi Arabia had also reportedly offered Somalia $80 million to sever ties with Doha and threatened to withdraw aid if it refused. Amman’s desire to retain ties with Saudi Arabia and the UAE was therefore a knee-jerk reaction triggered by an understanding of the consequences of opposing its Gulf allies.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s greatest complaints were Doha’s ties with Iran and alleged “support” of terrorism. Both had accused Qatar of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which they consider a terrorist organization. Arguably, they were mostly incensed by Doha’s independent foreign policy.

However, Amman does not share Riyadh and Abu Dhabi’s concerns. Jordan has tolerated the Muslim Brotherhood; the faction even has a presence in the Jordanian parliament. Meanwhile Amman has managed to maintain relations with Iran, and even Turkey – whom Saudi Arabia and the UAE also perceive as a regional rival.

Amman has also been eager to re-establish economic ties with Doha. Particularly as the Gulf crisis has negatively impacted Jordan’s economy.

Amman has also been eager to re-establish economic ties with Doha. Particularly as the Gulf crisis has negatively impacted Jordan’s economy. Its land exports to Qatar have since dropped by 75 percent, due to Saudi Arabia blocking them.

Furthermore as Lawrence Rubin analyzed, Saudi Arabia’s aid and investment pledges to Amman had been delayed, while Doha readily promised large financial assistance packages, including a $500 million pledge in June 2018.

Amman’s goal of a GDP growth of 5 percent last year had only reached 2.2 percent. As of August 2019, it also reported an unemployment level of around 19.1 percent, with around 38.5 percent of 20 to 24-year-olds predicted to be out of work. Jordanians have often expressed concerns over unemployment and the economic situation.

Last May, just before Qatar and Jordan had resumed ties, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Mission Chief to Jordan, Martin Cerisola, said that “Jordan is facing difficult circumstances and pressing [economic] challenges.” Adding that Amman’s economy was performing below expectations and calling for the government to implement stronger reforms.

Yet IMF-backed austerity measures in 2018 which included price hikes and higher income taxes had triggered protests of around 3,000 people, exposing Amman’s economic dilemma and its need to strengthen relations with other countries.

Furthermore, Jordanian workers constitute Qatar’s largest expat community of around 60,000 workers, and Doha has opened its doors to Jordanian professionals. Qatar’s Ambassador to Jordan, Sheikh Saud Bin Nasser al-Thani, said on February 20 that he expected that figure to rapidly grow as more job allocations were expected. Restoring ties therefore gives unemployed Jordanians a greater opportunity to seek work in Doha, as many have expressed a desire to leave their country.

Asides from economic concerns, Jordan’s Ambassador to Qatar, Zaid Mufleh Al Lawzi, said prior to the meeting that the Palestinian issue would be a key focus of al-Thani and Abdullah’s talks.

The American peace plan has threatened Amman strategically as it leaves open the prospect of Israel’s annexation of the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank.

The American peace plan has threatened Amman strategically as it leaves open the prospect of Israel’s annexation of the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank. Seeking Qatar’s support would grant Jordan a stronger diplomatic pushback against annexation. Particularly since Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have offered limited support in this regard.

“While the Arab League had condemned the Deal of the Century, there are still differences in each state’s approach to the agreement. Jordan has a unique relation to the Palestinian question, having around 2 million refugees and being the custodian of Al Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem. It needs many friends to oppose Trump’s plan, and Qatar is seen as being able to offer essential diplomatic support,” al-Sharif said.

Qatar takes a more proactive role on the Palestinian issue, providing aid and stability to alleviate Gaza’s severe humanitarian catastrophe, while continuing to mediate between Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Al Sharif added that though Jordan has been “testing the winds” with its foreign policy, Saudi Arabia and the UAE will not react strongly to Jordan’s somewhat independent stance due to it serving as a vital strategic ally, positioned as a “buffer” state next to Palestine and Israel.

Therefore, to solve its economic and strategic concerns, Amman is likely to further bolster its ties with Doha and continue to strengthen their bilateral relations in the future.