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Jordan’s king says he would support Middle East version of NATO with clear mission

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows Jordan's King Abdullah II giving a speech during the inauguration of the 19th Parliament's non-ordinary session, in Amman, Jordan. (Photo by AP)

Jordan’s monarch has announced he would support the formation of a Middle East military alliance similar to the US-led NATO.

Such a grouping could work with like-minded countries, but the military alliance’s mission statement would need to be clear from the outset, King Abdullah II told CNBC News.

“I’d like to see more countries in the area come into that mix. I would be one of the first people that would endorse a Middle East NATO,” Abdullah said. “The mission statement has to be very, very clear. Otherwise, it confuses everybody.”

Abdullah said he already saw Jordan as a “partner” of NATO, given the country has worked closely with the organization and its troops have fought “shoulder to shoulder” with the coalition forces in the past.

Jordan, a major non-NATO ally and frequent participant in military drills with the alliance, hosts around 3,000 US troops and its Muwaffaq Salti air base was used as a launching pad for purported counterterrorism operations by the group in the region.

During the interview with CNBC, Abdullah also pointed to Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine and said the offensive had already helped unite Middle Eastern countries.

“As well as security and military cooperation, a closer alliance in the Middle East could help to address the challenges arising from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, especially with regard to energy and commodity prices,” the Jordanian king said.

“All of us are coming together and saying ‘how can we help each other?’ which is, I think, very unusual for the region,” he added. “If I’m okay and you’re not, I’m going to end up paying the price. I’m hoping what you’re seeing in 2022 is this new vibe, I guess, in the region to say, ‘how can we connect with each other and work with each other?’”

Abdullah's comments come as US President Joe Biden prepares to visit West Asia as part of efforts aimed at normalizing ties between the region’s Arab countries and Israel, in addition to boosting Washington's ties with its regional allies.

The idea of forming a “Middle East NATO” and a grouping similar to the US-led military alliance has raised eyebrows among world leaders as the expansion of NATO has already wreaked havoc across Russia’s western borders.

China’s President Xi Jinping on Wednesday warned against “expanding military alliances”, calling on countries around the world to overcome difficulties together and work toward win-win cooperation.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry also described NATO’s expansion in the Asian-Pacific region as dangerous and called on the military alliance to avoid attempts to start a new Cold War.

Moreover, Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi warned against attempts to expand the NATO’s influence in different parts of the world, blaming the provocative acts of the US and the military alliance for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Raeisi stressed the importance of ending the war in Ukraine as soon as possible and expressed the Islamic Republic’s readiness to help find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine in late February, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements and Moscow’s recognition of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the goals of what he called a “special military operation” were to address Russia's security concerns and to “de-Nazify” Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine has inflamed tensions between Russia and the West, with the US and its NATO allies imposing unprecedented sanctions on Moscow and supplying a large cache of weaponry to Ukraine.

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