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It’s not rocket science! Palestinian, Israeli and Iranian scientists jointly working at a particle accelerator in Jordan

16.06.2017 - مقال

From a technical point of view, it is the first synchrotron in the region. Politically speaking, it is almost a miracle.

International scientists work together at SESAME
International scientists work together at SESAME© SESAME

SESAME opened its doors in Amman on 16 May. It is the largest research centre in the Middle East and stands for Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East.

From a technical point of view, it is the first synchrotron in the region, and it can be described as a particle accelerator. Politically, however, it is almost a miracle. At SESAME, Iranian, Israeli, Palestinian, Cypriot and Turkish scientists collaborate. Some of the countries they hail from have not even established diplomatic ties with each other.

Jordan - in a key position, not only in terms of its geographic location

Jordan is attempting to be a mediator in the region
Jordan is attempting to be a mediator in the region© Trutschel/photothek.net

It is no coincidence that SESAME is located in Jordan. Jordan pursues a foreign policy of conciliation with its neighbours and tries to help achieve peace in the region. The new research centre seeks to enable cross-border cooperation and to prevent highly qualified scientists from leaving the Middle East because it lacks the respective technical infrastructure.

Germany’s contribution

Ambassador Siefker-Eberle at the opening of the research centre
Ambassador Siefker-Eberle at the opening of the research centre© SESAME

By donating the BESSY I particle accelerator, Germany has substantially contributed to the SESAME project, where it now enjoys observer status. The German nuclear physicist Rolf-Dieter Heuer will this year succeed his British colleague Sir Chris Llewellyn-Smith as President of the Council of SESAME. Both researchers have served as Directors General of the CERN accelerator in Europe (Conseil européen pour la recherche nucléaire). Dr Erwin Huttel of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology has been working at SESAME for several years as its Technical Director.

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Bilateral relations with Jordan

On Wednesday (2 September), Foreign Minister Steinmeier met Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh in Berlin. Their talks focused primarily on the conflict in Syria and how to tackle the refugee crisis in the region and in Europe, as well as on bilateral relations.

Steinmeier and Judeh
Steinmeier and Judeh© Photothek/Imo

A “pole of stability” in the Middle East: Germany and Jordan enjoy close ties in the areas of business of culture, as Federal Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier stressed during today's visit of his Jordanian counterpart to Berlin. Judeh, too, praised the “excellent relations” between his country and Germany. They also emphasised their close interaction on the urgent issues on the international and regional agenda.

Support for Syria envoy de Mistura

The conflict in Syria therefore played a particularly prominent role in the talks between the two Foreign Ministers. Steinmeier and Judeh are both in contact with UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura. Steinmeier explained that de Mistura was involved in a consultation process in Geneva supported by both the Federal Government and the Hashemite Kingdom in an attempt to build a platform on which a political initiative could succeed. Steinmeier went on to express his hope that these negotiations would be the first step towards defusing the situation. He said that both Foreign Ministers agreed that a solution had to be found for Syria before the country and its institutions collapsed altogether.

Another topic of the discussions was Germany's OSCE chairmanship in 2016 and the next OSCE meeting with the states bordering the Mediterranean. Steinmeier stressed that the meeting in Amman, Jordan, in October would provide an opportunity to think beyond each separate conflict in the region to acquire a broader perspective. The German Foreign Minister said that this involved considering the question of how to develop a security architecture for the Middle East and the Mediterranean region “in which the common interest in greater security could form the basis for the states' interaction with one another”.

Foreign Minister Steinmeier
Foreign Minister Steinmeier© Photothek/Imo

Refugees: fairer distribution among the EU countries is needed

Speaking alongside his Jordanian counterpart, Steinmeier also addressed the issue of taking in refugees in the EU. He called for greater European cooperation in this area. Steinmeier felt that the scale of the issue was now so large that people should stop “pointing accusatory fingers at one another”. He announced that at the informal EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Luxembourg the coming weekend (4 and 5 September) he would be presenting a ten‑point plan for a common European refugee policy that he had compiled in collaboration with Economic Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

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Patricia Flor, Head of the Directorate-General for the United Nations and Global Issues at the Federal Foreign Office, travelled to Jordan for talks from 13 to 14 October. Her visit focused on the crisis in Syria and included encounters with Syrian refugees and talks with aid organisations in Jordan.

Flor with Gavin White from UNHCR on a tour of the Syrian refugee camp Zaatari with UNHCR, UNICEF and WFP representatives.
Flor with Gavin White from UNHCR on a tour of the Syrian refugee camp Zaatari with UNHCR, UNICEF and WFP representatives.© AA

Flor visited a number of humanitarian aid projects supported by the Federal Government in the course of her stay. In Amman, she visited a centre for the psychosocial care of Syrian refugees and needy Jordanian families, which was set up by UNICEF with German support.

She discussed the current challenges posed by the refugee situation with refugees and international volunteers on her visit to the Zaatari refugee camp on the border with Syria. In Amman, Flor held talks with representatives from UN organisations working on the ground. Moreover, her meeting with Leena Al-Hadid, the Head of Department for International Relations at Jordan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, focused on the current situation in the region.

German assistance for Jordan

Visit to the Princess Basma Centre in northern Amman together with UNICEF
Visit to the Princess Basma Centre in northern Amman together with UNICEF© AA

According to official United Nations figures, there are currently more than 600,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan (either registered with UNHCR or in the registration process). Germany is supporting a wide range of measures in Jordan to assist both Syrian refugees and affected Jordanian municipalities. As of September 2014, the Federal Government has provided almost 163 million euros for the measures in Jordan.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met his Jordanian colleague Nasser Judeh in Berlin on 8 October. Their talks focused on assistance for Syrian refugees in Jordan.

Joint press conference with Steinmeier and Judeh
Joint press conference with Steinmeier and Judeh© AA

The fact that they have met so often during the last few months is, unfortunately, not only a reflection of the close relations between Germany and Jordan: Foreign Minister Steinmeier emphasised this when he welcomed his Jordanian counterpart Nasser Judeh to Berlin. Rather, he said, their regular meetings were also an indication of the “alarming number of international crises, especially the major crisis in the Middle East”.

Jordan finds itself in the midst of these crises: During the last few months, the Kingdom has taken in more than a million Syrian refugees – that amounts to more than 20% of its population and has placed an immense economic and social burden on the country. Steinmeier expressed his respect for Jordan’s considerable engagement in housing and providing basic necessities for the refugee families.

Refugee conference in Berlin

However, the Foreign Minister pointed out that respect alone was not enough: he commented that on top of the necessary relief supplies for the refugees, something had to be done to boost the stability of neighbouring countries. He added that this should be coordinated, inter alia, by the international refugee conference to be held in Berlin on 28 October, in which many countries had already confirmed they would participate.

Steinmeier expressed his grave concern about the situation in the Syrian town of Kobane, which is currently under siege by the Islamist terrorist group ISIS: “We have to acknowledge that we have not yet found the right means to bring the protracted war and civil strife in Syria to an end.” The Foreign Minister added:

The establishment of an international alliance was necessary in order to combat ISIS. However, it still cannot guarantee that we will succeed everywhere to the same degree and that the tide will soon turn.

Close relations

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh thanked Steinmeier in German for the warm welcome he had received in Berlin. He said that Germany and the Kingdom of Jordan were linked by excellent relations which had grown over the course of time.

Talking about the efforts to combat the ISIS terrorist militia, Nasser Judeh stated that Jordan wanted to “wage this war on several levels”: in addition to military means, it was important in the conflict with ISIS to also take action against those “who are trying to damage Islam’s image. For the Islamic State is neither a state nor does it represent Islam.”

Furthermore, ahead of the international conference in Egypt on Sunday (12 October) the two Ministers discussed the recent developments in the Middle East conflict.

Further information:

More on German-Jordanian relations