The delegation was met upon arrival by HE Akel Bitalji, Head of Tourism & Heritage Committee in the Upper House, who was to be our kind host for the duration of the visit.
In Amman, the Jordanian capital, HE Prime Minister Dr Marouf Al Bakhit received the CMEC delegation. The discussions focussed on regional issues as Jordan is precariously positioned as an island of relative stability surrounded by multiple conflicts. The delegates were keen to better understand Jordan’s expectations of the Annapolis peace conference in November. Jordan signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1994 and the peace dividend is apparent as in turn it has produced lucrative economic co-operation and US trade concessions.
The MPs were also fortunate to be received by HE Zeid Alrifai, President of the Upper House. He emphasised Jordan’s historic relationship with the UK and informed the delegates of Jordan’s efforts, under King Abdullah II to bring about political and economic reform.
The British Ambassador, James Watt, kindly hosted the CMEC delegation at his residence in Amman for an informal briefing.
With few natural resources to offer, the Jordanian economy is largely dependent on its tourism industry. The delegation was given a tour of the developments on the south coast near the port of Aqaba where the Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) is on the way to establishing an economic city with investment from Lebanon, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The delegation were particularly impressed to see the efforts being made to ensure that all touristic developments are being carried out with environmental sustainability in mind.
The CMEC officers were keen to visit Save The Children who are currently running formal and informal education programmes for Iraqi refugees that have been displaced by the Iraq war. It is believed that up to 400,000 refugees have been absorbed by Jordan since the start of the war in March 2003.
A visit to Jordan would not have been complete without a viewing of the infamous ‘rose city’ of Petra. These ancient ruins of the Nabatean civilisation combined with the touristic attractions of the Dead Sea, Wadi Rum and the Baptism site were welcome distractions breaking up the journey from Aqaba to Amman.
Following the visit the CMEC officers invited Her Excellency Dr Alia Bouran, Jordanian Ambassador to the UK, to a lunch at the House of Commons.