Ahead of another summit meeting of the leaders of the three states scheduled for the first quarter of next year, Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq are coming together to boost tripartite cooperation in various fields including energy, reconstruction, foreign interference and supporting the stability of the Middle East.
A number of developments this week indicated the willingness of the three to go ahead with their common goals.
This week’s meetings, according to Medhat Nafei, an economic expert, are preliminary meetings for the fourth summit between the three leaders, casting light on all the prospects of cooperation.
The alliance is facing three major challenges at present, Nafei told the media this week. The first is cooperation in various fields especially that of energy and building upon the projects that are already on the ground. The second is related to the coronavirus and the third is the reconstruction of Iraq. That explains the recent meetings held between Egypt’s minister of planning and her Iraqi counterpart.
“The political leadership in the three countries has shown support for cooperation projects either on the bilateral or trilateral levels. And that guarantees the success of mega projects that are likely to be implemented within the alliance, especially the reconstruction of Iraq. That should be definitely implemented by Arab companies,” Ibrahim Al-Sheweimi, adviser to the Egyptian Federation of Construction and Building Contractors (EFCBC), told Al-Ahram Weekly.
During his meeting with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and Planning Minister Khaled Battal this week, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi underlined his country’s seriousness and strong determination to cooperate with Iraq.
“Egypt is keen to advance… cooperation with Iraq, whether at the bilateral level or tripartite level with Jordan in light of the strategic importance of this cooperation to the Arab world,” Battal said.
Battal visited Cairo with a high-level Iraqi ministerial delegation. The meeting witnessed the activation of implementing mechanisms of what was agreed upon in the joint Egyptian-Iraqi High Committee meeting, as well as following up the implementation of projects emanating from the tripartite cooperation mechanism with Jordan.
In the same context, Egypt’s Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli urged quick implementation of joint projects between Egypt, Iraq and Jordan as a way to meet the current challenges confronting the Arab region.
Madbouli’s statement came during a tripartite meeting in the presence of ministerial delegations from the three countries early this week.
He warned that any delay in the implementation of such projects would lead to costs doubling.
He pointed out that the members of the three ministerial delegations agreed on putting deals signed among the three countries into effect and launching joint development projects in various fields.
The ministers agreed on increasing cooperation in several fields, especially health, medicinal industries, infrastructure projects, electricity and interchange trade.
In the meantime, the Cairo branch of the Arab Bridge Maritime Company has discussed a proposal establishing a unified ticketing system to facilitate road transportation between Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan, according to a statement from the Egyptian Ministry of Transportation early this week.
The new system could be established through a new company, the Arab Bridge Company for Road Transportation, or through integrating road transportation companies that exist in the three countries in order to reach a formula that facilitates road transportation, the statement added.
The proposal was discussed during the 75th meeting of the General Assembly of the Arab Bridge Maritime attended by Egyptian Minister of Transportation Kamel Al-Wazir and his Jordanian and Iraqi counterparts Marwan Khaitan and Nasser Hussein, in addition to the members of the board of directors of the company.
The company was established by the governments of the three companies in 1985 and is regarded as one of the best examples of cooperation among the three states.
These meetings built upon the three summits held during the last two years in addition to dozens of ministerial meetings that worked to establish sound cooperation in the framework of the tripartite alliance.
During the third tripartite summit, held in the Jordanian capital Amman in August, the leaders of the three states stressed the importance of strengthening economic cooperation and adopting the best mechanisms to boost strategic relations.
During the summit, the leaders directed the relevant ministers to focus on health and medical sectors, education, energy and intra-trade, encourage investment and economic cooperation, and benefit from the lessons of the coronavirus pandemic in order to deepen cooperation in dealing with the impact of the virus.
Earlier summits had taken place in March 2019 in Cairo and in September 2019 in New York City, on the sidelines of the annual session of the UN General Assembly. Each meeting aimed to take further measures to deepen cooperation among the three states.
The last tripartite meeting at the level of foreign ministers was held in October in Cairo to discuss joint agreements that the three states signed in August, boost efficient partnership and deepen coordination and strategic integration between the three countries on the economic, political, security and cultural levels.
Various ministerial meetings were held between Egypt’s Minister of Planning Hala Al-Said and her Iraqi counterpart to work out plans for bilateral and trilateral cooperation in the reconstruction of Iraq.
Perhaps this is one of the most important fields of cooperation within the alliance, according to Al-Sheweimi.
Iraq needs from $150 billion to $200 billion for reconstruction. “This may look like a huge figure. But the reconstruction will be financed by international bodies either through long-term loans or grants,” Al-Sheweimi said.
While he underlined that Iraq will definitely benefit from the input of Egyptian and Jordanian companies in reconstruction projects in the country, and that the priority should be given to Arab companies in that task, Al-Sheweimi pointed to a number of obstacles, namely the question of security in Iraq, arranging financing with international donors and coping with the competition from other states that want to take part in the reconstruction.
The scope and prospects for cooperation among the three states are big and the leadership in the three states are keen to achieve them within the alliance.
In September, Egypt’s cabinet issued a statement indicating that Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq will establish an electricity linkage and an oil pipeline capitalising on the outcomes of the tripartite summit held in Jordan in August.
A few days later, a major Iraqi company for passenger transport affiliated to the Iraqi Ministry of Transport announced that Baghdad would establish a new ground road to Egypt through Jordanian territories.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 December, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.