Speech: “Britain will be a partner you can depend on” – PM in Jordan
Thank you very much for that introduction and it is a great pleasure to be back in Amman and to be making my second visit to Jordan this year.
From the Great Arab Revolt a century ago – when British Forces fought alongside the Hashemite Army of Sharif Hussein, with the help and support of the region’s local Bedouin tribes – to the establishment of the Emirate of Transjordan under British Mandate in 1921 and the independent Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1946, our two countries and our two peoples have stood resolutely alongside each other.
His Late Majesty King Hussein was crowned one month to the day before our own Queen was crowned in Westminster Abbey. And over the nearly 18 years of His Majesty King Abdullah’s reign, we have continued to stand firmly side by side, including as partners in the Global Coalition against Daesh.
It is true to say that – by virtue of both our shared history and our shared values – there is no country in this region with which the UK feels instinctively closer.
So this further visit is a sign of the priority I have placed on deepening the special friendship between our countries – and the strength of my commitment to supporting the security, stability and prosperity of this entire region.
From trade treaties stretching back to the 17th Century to our alliance in defeating Daesh, the rich and historic relationship between Britain and its allies in the Middle East has been the bedrock of our shared security and prosperity for generations.
And I believe that relationship is every bit as important for our future as it has been for our past.
Today as extremists plot terrorist attacks from this region, they are not only targeting people here in the countries of the Middle East, but targeting people on the streets of Britain too.
As unresolved conflicts and tensions fuel instability across the Middle East, it is not only security here that is threatened, but the whole international order on which global security and prosperity depends.
And as countries here in the Middle East face the generational challenge of creating opportunity and prosperity for all your people – it is in all our interests that your efforts succeed. Not only because your prosperity affects the prosperity of us all – but also because that prosperity is a vital foundation for the long-term stability on which our security depends.
To those who ask if the United Kingdom is in danger of stepping back from the world, I say: nothing could be further from the truth.
We understand that we best defend our values, our interests and our way of life by working together with our international partners to uphold the international rules-based system.
I have a clear message today – for our allies here in Jordan; and for our allies across this region:
We will support you as you confront the threats to your security – and back your vision for societies and economies that will prosper today and play a positive role in the world tomorrow.
And to do this, we are making a new, ambitious and optimistic offer of partnership to support that strength and resilience for the long-term.
A partnership that supports your security, helping you defend and protect your borders and your people from external aggression. A partnership that goes further in seeking to resolve the ongoing violence and political tension across the region. Not just containing current conflicts – but resolving them and in so doing increasing the resilience of the region.
And a partnership which helps you deliver the social and economic reforms that will address many of the underlying causes of this tension and create transformative opportunities for your people – and with it economic security and regional stability.
Our security partnership builds on a strong foundation. Most recently, the UK has been proudly at the forefront of the international coalition that is defeating Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
We have conducted more than 1600 air strikes against Daesh targets, second only to the United States – and we have more than 1450 personnel supporting counter-Daesh operations in the wider region, including over 600 deployed in Iraq. We have trained over 60,000 Iraqi Security Forces on everything from countering IEDs to engineering, logistics, and combat medical support.
And under my leadership we remain profoundly and unequivocally committed to supporting the security of this entire region – for example, with our Royal Navy continuing to patrol the Gulf as it has done for decades.
Yesterday I was in Iraq – where I was the first British Prime Minister to visit in nine years. This visit was a clear statement that while we must draw lessons from our history of engagement in the region, we will not let the challenges of the past prevent us from doing what is right for the future. I am determined that Britain will engage in the most pressing regional and global issues, in our interests, in the region’s, and in line with our responsibilities as a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council.
I made it clear in my discussions with Prime Minister Abadi that for as long as the Iraqis want and need it, the UK will continue to be a fully committed security partner.
This includes continuing to train Iraqi forces and investing a further £10 million over the next three years in strengthening Iraqi counter-terrorism capabilities. And it involves working with partners across the region – including Jordan – to develop the capabilities that can help to counter the dispersal of foreign fighters as Daesh is squeezed out of its so called ‘caliphate’.
We will also continue to support the Iraqi government as it seeks to deliver the reforms needed to rebuild public trust in a unified and sovereign Iraqi state, while at the same time recognising that the UK has a long-standing relationship with the Kurds as vital partners in the fight against terrorism. We encourage the Iraqi government to respond positively to the new Kurdish leadership, and we encourage the Kurds to respect the Iraqi Federal Court ruling that the referendum was unconstitutional.
We call on both sides to move quickly to negotiations of outstanding differences on the basis of the constitution – and I welcome the reassurance that Prime Minster Abadi gave me that this dialogue was already underway. And we urge the Iraqi people to ensure that next year’s crucial elections contribute to reconciliation and the creation of a more representative political landscape that can unite Iraq against all forms of extremism and hatred.
Today I want to assure you that my commitment to Jordanian security will be at the heart of our efforts in this region.
So far this year, we have seen four major UK military exercises with over 3,000 UK personnel in Jordan and over 350 Jordanian personnel taking part in 19 different military courses in the UK.
Jordanian police trained by UK-funded experts are patrolling the streets in Mafraqand in the refugee camps in Zaatari and Azraq, helping to keep communities safe.
And on my visit to the headquarters of the Quick Reaction Force with His Majesty King Abdullah in April, I was delighted to announce an uplift in the UK’s security assistance including additional support to help deliver an expansion of that Force to three units.
Following that visit we have also invested in better air land integration; in further enhancing Jordanian intelligence; and in helping Jordan to meet its ambition of a fully co-ordinated National Threat System. And over the next few months we will be working to help improve security in tourist areas and developing new strands of police co-operation.
As we move towards the collapse of the so-called caliphate of Daesh in Iraq and Syria, so we need to adapt our response as they move to new battlefields. We have to defeat the ideologues who fuel the hatred of Islamist extremism wherever they are found. So I very much welcome the development of your national strategy to counter violent extremism. And I pay tribute to His Majesty King Abdullah for his leadership in confronting the ideologies of extremism, as well as the latest in the series of conferences that His Majesty is hosting this weekend in Aqaba this weekend to ensure that we in the international community combat terrorism in a coordinated way.
We must also step up our efforts to crack down on terrorist use of the internet. Tech companies have made significant progress on this issue, and I welcome Facebook’s recent announcement on the use of artificial intelligence to improve the detection of terrorist content and speed of its removal. But we need to continue our efforts to go further and faster to reduce the time it takes to remove terrorist content online, and to stop it being uploaded in the first place.
And, we must confront new and increasingly diffuse threats as foreign fighters disperse and Daesh becomes increasingly active and turns to insurgency within the region – as we saw so tragically only last week, with the despicable murder of more than 300 Muslims who were praying in a Mosque in Egypt. A sickening attack that showed once again how this evil extremist ideology which we face together takes no account of race or religion – and indeed has murdered more Muslims than people of any other faith.
Addressing instability in the region[hhmc]
However, as we see Daesh seeking new ungoverned spaces from which to plot and carry out attacks, it will not be enough alone to deepen our security cooperation. We must also renew our partnership to address the ongoing conflicts in the region which they and others exploit.
Here in Jordan, we see clearly the challenges that the instability from Syria poses. You have the admiration and respect of the whole world for the extraordinary compassion, generosity and humanity that you have shown towards the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who have fled into your country.
As Her Majesty Queen Rania remarked recently in an important speech: “without compassion, we weaken the foundations of our common humanity”.
I am proud of the contribution that the UK has made in helping you provide this compassionate response. We have provided over three quarters of a billion dollars in Jordan – both for vital health and education facilities for those displaced by the fighting and also to address the needs of host communities. And we will continue to play a full role in supporting you to protect refugees.
Of course we must strengthen your security and support you in dealing with the effects of instability, which is why we are spending £25 million to help stabilise the Southern Syria De-Escalation Area on the Jordanian border and why we must continue to support the UN agencies to deliver aid across the border to the millions in desperate need. But ultimately only a lasting political solution in Syria will neutralise this terrorist threat and allow the refugees you are hosting to return home. That is why the international community must stop creating rival processes, and unite behind a single UN-led process in Geneva that will bring about an end to the conflict through a genuine transition to a new democratic, inclusive and legitimate government. After having overseen the deaths of hundreds of thousands of his countrymen, women and children, surely none of us can imagine that a government led by Bashar Al Assad could claim such legitimacy.
But it is not just Daesh and Asad’s regime that are a threat to Syria’s stability. Iran is showing that it is more interested in bolstering its role in the region, and that of its proxy Hezbollah, than finding a lasting peace in Syria.
And Iran’s destabilising activity goes beyond Syria. Their previous attempts to acquire a nuclear weapon posed a threat to the international non-proliferation system on which wider international security depends. That is why we must stand firm in our support for the nuclear deal. This deal was the culmination of 13 years of diplomacy and a major step towards ensuring that Iran’s nuclear programme is not diverted for military purposes. It is vitally important for our shared security.
Equally I am clear that the JCPoA only addresses one aspect of Iran’s threat in this region. We must therefore strengthen our response to Iran’s ballistic missile programme and its proliferation of weapons. This includes in Yemen, where it is unacceptable for the Houthis to fire missiles at Riyadh. In my meeting in Riyadh last night with Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman I agreed that we would increase our work with Saudi Arabia to address this. I welcome the ongoing UN investigation into the source of the missiles and the international community must be resolute in its response to the findings.
However, as we and our allies seek to protect ourselves, we cannot lose sight of the millions of Yemenis experiencing appalling suffering for a war that has little to do with them. For decades the people of Yemen have suffered through civil wars, through Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula using their country as a launch-pad for attacks across the world, and most recently through renewed internal power struggles. The people of Yemen must no longer be caught in the crossfire.
Today almost a third of Yemen’s entire population is at risk of deep food insecurity. This dire situation must end. The UK will work with our partners to do everything possible to achieve this.
We will continue as the third largest humanitarian donor to the crisis in Yemen, increasing our contribution to £155 million for 2017/18 and pressing the whole international community to do more.
But I am also clear that the flow of commercial supplies on which the country depends must be resumed if we are to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe. During my discussions with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh last night, we agreed that steps needed to be taken as a matter of urgency to address this and that we would take forward more detailed discussions on how this could be achieved. And, following the Foreign Secretary-hosted talks in London this week, we will also intensify efforts with all parties to bring a political settlement that will bring sustainable security for Saudi Arabia and for Yemen.
The price of failure to resolve such conflicts is nowhere more apparent than with the Middle East Peace Process. With over 2 million Palestinian refugees living here in Jordan, you understand better than anyone the vital importance of getting the peace process back on track and the impact this would have on enabling all of our partners in the region to come together to face their common threats.
The UK has an historic role in the search for a just and lasting settlement. We remain absolutely committed to doing everything we can to support both sides to achieve a peace deal which must be based on a two-state solution, with a viable and sovereign Palestinian state alongside a safe and secure Israel.
And in this centenary year of the Balfour declaration, I have acknowledged that this remains a sensitive issue for Palestinians and many other people today. But just as I have been clear that we are proud of Britain’s role in the creation of the State of Israel – so I have also been clear that we must address the suffering of Palestinians affected and dislodged by Israel’s birth.
Just as we urge countries to stand up against threats to Israel and we are clear that incitement to violence and denial of Israel’s right to exist must stop, so I am clear that those actions of the Israeli government which create an obstacle to peace – not least illegal settlement construction – must also stop.
Across all these sources of instability in the region, we will work with you: not trying to impose Western solutions, but reliant on you and key partners across the Middle East and North Africa to show the bold leadership that can resolve these issues, and backing your efforts to deliver the political solutions that are so essential to solving the conflicts in this region.
Long-term prosperity for the region[hhmc]
These efforts to bolster your security and resolve today’s conflicts will not alone bring the long-term stability that we all want to see. So finally, we must also build our partnership to create economic prosperity now and into the future.
Across the Middle East, populations are growing rapidly to the extent that well over 50 per cent of the population is now made up of the under 24s. Here in Jordan your population has grown from 2 million in the 1980s to 10 million today; with over 40 per cent under the age of 15.
At the same time, the revenue streams of many states have been significantly reduced with the declining value of fossil fuels. All of this places immense strain on governments, social structures and services across the region. Inevitably tough choices have to be made, and these in turn risk creating political instability and provide fertile ground for extremism to prey on the most vulnerable.
Leaders across the region are recognising and stepping up to meet these challenges.
Yesterday I discussed Saudi Arabia’s ambitious reform programme: Vision 2030 with His Majesty King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman.
There are similarly ambitious visions across much of the region including in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
And, of course, here in Jordan King Abdullah has set out his 2025 vision – seeking to build self-reliance, as he told your Parliament earlier this month, and making your economy more competitive and better able to provide jobs and to give hope to the next generation.
A fundamental part of the United Kingdom’s new offer is a step-change in our support for these reforms.
Drawing on the full capability of the government and our private sector, we will back your visions for social and economic transformation with the potentially far-reaching benefits they bring. And in doing so, we will champion steps towards greater rights and openness, while also being realistic about the speed at which lasting change can happen and the necessary balance between stability and progress.
Think of the new trade you that can pioneer across the world, the new jobs for your young people, and the impact that Jordan and its partners can have in shaping the future.
And think of the opportunities for Jordan to become a focal point for new business, new services and new investment to assist the reconstruction of Syria when that longed-for political solution is finally achieved.
The potential for transformative change is very real if we get this right.
But, as His Majesty King Abdullah himself has said, we have enough visions and strategies. We now need to get on with delivering them – implementation is key.
So the United Kingdom will offer all we can to support you in doing exactly that.
The sustained economic partnership I am proposing today goes far beyond our role in supporting you to protect refugees. I come here today to propose a new long-term partnership to support your economic, social and political resilience, to improve education and to empower the private sector in helping to deliver jobs and opportunities for people across Jordan.
The Jordan Compact we agreed at the London Conference on Syria two years ago not only provided significant humanitarian assistance but also put in place a new approach harnessing the private sector and concessional financing to create jobs for refugees and Jordanians alike and boost Jordan’s economy. Building on this approach, we want to do more to support Jordan’s resilience. We will use the full breadth of our international relationships and our position in multi-lateral financial institutions such as the IMF and World Bank to leverage the largest possible global financial backing for your vision 2025 reforms.
We will mobilise partnerships between British and Jordanian businesses, focusing on our shared expertise in services, and working to deliver an ambitious post-Brexit trade deal between our two countries.
And we will set up a joint senior policy dialogue on economic reform to maintain the momentum that we begin today.
For our own part, I am today committing an initial £94.5 million to support Jordan’s economic resilience – including £60 million in investment grants, support for critical infrastructure projects, essential skills training and support to improve the quality of education.
And this is just the start of a significant increase in our funding for Jordan’s resilience, which will go on to include support for the reform of government, the growth of private sector investment and the creation of safety nets to ensure that no-one loses out from these reforms.
We will also continue to support the educational reforms that King Abdullah and Queen Rania have so bravely pioneered, and which I saw first-hand when I met the Minister for Education here in April.
Of course, all of this is built on the principle that Jordan will deliver the political, social and economic reforms that His Majesty King Abdullah has set out.
But with His Majesty’s leadership I am confident that you can do so. His Majesty has talked of incremental reform – but it is no less ambitious or important for that.
At its heart is tolerance for different views, active citizenship, equal access to justice, fighting corruption and deepening democracy. These are the principles that His Majesty the King has set out. Our partnership is not about reinventing those principles but supporting them.
These are reforms made in Jordan, by Jordan and for Jordan. And we want them to succeed.
In conclusion, the challenges facing Jordan – and many of the countries in this region – are possibly some of the greatest that you have faced in many years.
But I believe that if you see through the reforms you have set out, there is every reason to be optimistic about the future ahead.
Optimistic that you can build economies and societies that generate opportunity and prosperity for your people.
And optimistic that you can deliver the stability in this region on which the security and prosperity of the wider world depends.
And throughout it all, you can be sure of one thing above all else: Britain will be a partner you can depend on – with you every step of the way.