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Jordan's King Abdullah says Donald Trump could be a catalyst for change in Middle East
Lateline
Posted Tue 22 Nov 2016 at 11:51pm, updated Wed 23 Nov2016 at 3:21am
The King and Queen of Jordan begin state visit(Matt Wordsworth)
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Jordan's King Abdullah II has told Lateline Donald Trump's presidency will change the status quo in the Middle East.
The King, who met with Attorney-General George Brandis and Justice Minister Michael Keenan to discuss counterterrorism earlier today, told Lateline in an exclusive interview that the Trump presidency could be a game-changer.
"It will definitely, I think, change the status quo of a lot of issues I think we've been dealing with," King Abdullah said.
"We'll have to see how the transition team comes along and what their view of our part of the world is but also the rest of the world.
"So it's not just people in our region that are waiting with bated breath, I think everybody is."
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However, the King was prosaic about the potential impact the incoming conservative US government would have.
"America is built on institutions, so there will be some changes in policy but I don't think to the extent that everybody's panicking about," he said.
Last week it emerged that Mr Trump's pick for national security advisor, General Michael Flynn, had described Islam as a "vicious cancer", and a "political ideology" that "hides behind the notion of it being a religion".
King Abdullah said comments like these came down to a lack of understanding and warned against an "us-against-them" mentality.
"Whatever comments are made on the campaign trail I tend to put aside and give people the benefit of the doubt, and I think we should give the new administration the benefit of doubt on this issue.
"Part of the problem I think … is the complete lack of understanding of Islam and the challenges that we have."
King Abdullah has made it clear he sees Islamic State as an unprecedented threat, and in the past has stressed that moderate Muslims must do more to combat extremism.
"We're actually all in the same trench — Muslims, Christians and Jews — against what I keep calling the outlaws of our religion," he said.
King Abdullah attends the Great Arab Revolt Centennial military parade.(Flickr: Royal Hashemite Court RHC)
No Syria solution without Russia
A feature of the recent US election campaign was Donald Trump's close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Some voiced concern that under President Trump, the United States might adopt Russia's position of keeping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime in power indefinitely.
Jordan is a member of the US-led coalition fighting IS in neighbouring Iraq and Syria, making it a target for extremists.
"I think most of us that understand Syria realise that there cannot be a solution [to the Syrian conflict] without the Russians, and this has been something all of us have been discussing for the past year or two," King Abdullah said.
"So at this stage we have to wait to see what is the US strategy, how they're going to deal with Russians."
Russia has long been a strong supporter of Mr Assad, and its administration has mostly walked away from the Syrian peace process.
"I think that [Russia] felt somewhat emboldened to do whatever they felt they needed to do in Syria," King Abdullah said.
"But at the same time it's difficult to put blame when it comes to negotiations on who walks away from whom."
King Abdullah met with US President Barack Obama this year to discuss efforts to combat Islamic State.(Flickr: Royal Hashemite Court RHC)
King Abdullah said he hoped Russia and the United States could come together to fight their common enemy.
"At the end of the day we're dealing with a global terror problem, a new third world war by other means … not post-Cold War where I had a feeling that there was more hatred between Moscow and Washington than there was against the extremists that we're dealing with globally," he said.
"I hope that changes because the priority is actually against this global threat."
King Abdullah said Australia was playing a pivotal role in combating extremism.
"You have a very capable Special Forces; we've seen them in our neighbourhood over the last several years," he said.
"So whether they work in our part of the world or whether we need to nip it in the bud, so to speak, in certain regions here in the far East, this is something that we have to do.
"I think your government understands that, we've had discussions along those lines, so have other responsible governments in the area."
King Abdullah pays surprise visits to underprivileged families in Deir Alla District.(Flickr: Royal Hashemite Court RHC)
Refugees now 20pc of Jordan's population
Jordan has consistently called on Western governments to do more to help it care for the refugees that have flooded from Syria into Jordan since fighting began in 2011.
King Abdullah said he was understanding of the Australian Government's "turn back the boats" policy, but urged compassion.
"You can understand countries that feel a sense of insecurity because of terrorism and because certain people can be labelled coming from that sector," he said.
Twenty per cent of Jordan's population is now made up of Syrian refugees.
"I was asked many questions by Jordanians that were getting just as frustrated seeing that 20 per cent of their country are now Syrian refugees, the impact it has on jobs, on property, on unemployment," King Abdullah said.
"And they ask me, 'stop the Syrians coming into the country', and I say 'how?'
"When you have a mother, a pregnant mother with a child in the hand trying to cross the border, how are we going to stop her?
"Do we sort of point bayonets at these people that are running away from horrible and threatening lives?
"There is a level of humanity that we have to reach out to each other."
Posted 22 Nov 2016, updated 23 Nov 2016
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