US ambassador affirms US position on Jordan, support for economy

‘We will do nothing that will harm the stability of Jordan’

Ambassador Henry T. Wooster
US Ambassador to Jordan Henry T. Wooster.
AMMAN — After a long pause without an assigned US ambassador to Jordan and months of turbulent relations under the former administration, Henry T. Wooster was appointed ambassador to Jordan in 2020. Now the veteran US envoy is reaffirming the strength of US-Jordanian relations.اضافة اعلان

In an interview with Jordan News and Al-Ghad Arabic daily, Wooster discussed current US efforts vis-à-vis Jordan’s economic stability in addition to regional issues. He also talked about the visa situation for Jordanians.

On the recent visit by His Majesty King Abdullah II to Washington, DC, Wooster said the King is greatly admired and respected in the US, due to his policies and advice that he offers to US officials and lawmakers.

“When the King speaks, Washington knows that he is providing counsel. He is trusted by Washington, and this goes both ways for the Democrats and the Republicans. Congress is not famous for always getting along, but these days, one of the rare moments when they agree on something it is when they meet with the King,” Wooster said.

HRH Crown Prince Hussein has also received the same respect. He accompanied the King during his visit and engaged in several discussions. “He created strong positive impressions in all of the meetings he attended,” Wooster said.

In the latter years of the Trump presidency, the US-Jordan relationship saw turbulent moments due to policies adopted regarding regional issues. However, this turbulence has been washed away due to efforts by the US President Joe Biden’s administration to reaffirm the US’ long-standing foreign policy, especially with regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict and support for Jordan.

“This (US position) has been reaffirmed publicly and behind closed doors by the president and in private. This position is different from what people have seen in the previous four years,” Wooster said.

The ambassador discussed the Jordanian economy and regional issues, considered key areas of focus by the current administration. He said that the main threats Jordan now faces are economic stability and the water crisis.
At an economic level, the ambassador explained how Jordan’s private sector has to create job opportunities, as the weight of this responsibility cannot be carried solely by the public sector, which itself needs reform.

“We’re trying to strengthen Jordan's economy; you need an economy that’s vibrant. Most particularly, job creation. (That) will not come from the public sector, but from the private sector,” Wooster said, “Additionally, we looked at the water shortages, which are critical and play a huge role in the economy and its ability to grow,” he added.

The ambassador pointed to the desalination project in Aqaba, referring to it as a hope for Jordan, while underlining the US’ efforts to encourage other countries to help Jordan fulfill that goal.

“This project is a complex one estimated (to cost) around $2 billion. It’s certainly the most expensive engineering project that Jordan has undertaken,” Wooster said.

“We are keen to encourage other countries to contribute to this project. The Jordanian government owns the project and will be in charge of it. ... Several countries have this as a priority in their relationship with Jordan,” he added.
Regarding the memorandum of understanding between the two countries, discussions are already underway to renew it before it expires next year. This agreement is imperative for the US, he said.  “What we must achieve for Jordan is predictability, and that is crucial,” Wooster added.

“For Jordan it is economic, military and cash transfer or what’s known as budget support for those three categories. What we want to achieve is captured in one word: predictability, which ensures having stability and reinforcing it.”

Wooster pointed to the US role in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict saying that the US cannot fix the current status quo — all it can do is to bring the parties together. He said the US has an interest in supporting economic integration that might help resolve the conflict.

“The conflict must be negotiated directly between the parties who are involved. We can't fix it, but we can help and we can facilitate, but we can't fix it,” Wooster said. “The president and the administration support economic integration in the region,” he added.

On Syria, the ambassador made it clear that the US does not support normalization with the Assad regime, as the US will not lift its sanctions on it. He clarified that the sanctions are aimed at the Assad regime and not intended to punish Jordan. He insisted that the US has a great interest in helping Jordan reach economic stability.

“We haven't changed our position on sanctions or reconstruction, we don't encourage normalization and we have not conducted any normalization with Assad,” Wooster said. “We will do everything we can to make sure that our friends, in this case, Jordan, is not hurt. Jordan’s economy and stability are the primary issues in our foreign policy, and we will do nothing that will harm the stability of Jordan,” he added.

Turning to more practical matters, Wooster said that the embassy will not open its doors for tourist visas in 2021, until further notice. However, the embassy has been expediting two visa programs, one for students and the other for some work visa programs, since this summer.

“For a lot of people it’s hard getting visa appointments. You can expect that to continue for some time. We don't know when this will improve, but on the positive side, this summer we placed a great priority on making sure that almost every Jordanian student got their visa,” the ambassador said. “For the two categories: students and some workers there won't be a need for appointments, there will be walk-ins, and there will be more information forthcoming soon,” he added.

Read more National news