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Obama Promises New Aid to Jordan in Refugee Crisis

Obama Promises New Aid to Jordan in Refugee Crisis February 15, 2014Leave a comment

obama aid jordan

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — President Obama announced during a meeting here Friday night with King Abdullah II of Jordan that he would seek to renew a five-year aid package to help Jordan bear the burden of the more than 600,000 Syrian refugees who have fled the civil war there.

Mr. Obama, amid broader discussions with King Abdullah about the stalemate in Syria, also announced that the United States would guarantee $1 billion in loans to help keep Jordan’s wavering economy afloat.

The president briefly outlined that aid package as he spoke to reporters at Sunnylands, the Southern California estate where Mr. Obama met with the king for 2 hours and 15 minutes over what the White House called a working dinner.

Calling the Jordanians “very generous,” Mr. Obama said, “It’s very important for us to make sure that we’re supportive of the kingdom in accommodating all these refugees.”

Mr. Obama’s discussions with the Jordanian king are part of an intensive diplomatic outreach to the Middle East over the next month, as the United States conducts risky negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, gropes for a political solution to the fighting in Syria, and tries to nudge the Israelis and the Palestinians toward a peace agreement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel will make a trip the White House on March 3, and Mr. Obama is scheduled to meet with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and, possibly, other Persian Gulf leaders during a visit there.

In their talks Friday, the president and Jordan’s King Abdullah discussed a vast range of regional issues, including the Middle East peace process, administration officials said. But the dominant issue was Syria, whose civil war has placed heavy burdens on its neighbor.

Syrians are only the latest group to seek the relative stability provided by Jordan, which has also taken in large numbers of people fleeing fighting in Iraq and Sudan in recent years. The United States aid package, which expires in September, has been valued at $660 million a year.

Jordan’s economic problems have been made worse by militants’ attacks on a natural gas pipeline from Egypt, which has been in upheaval since the Arab Spring uprising in 2011.

It is not the first time that Mr. Obama has used Sunnylands — a 200-acre estate built by Walter H. Annenberg, the publisher, philanthropist and ambassador who died in 2002 — as a diplomatic backdrop.

Last year, he hosted President Xi Jinping of China at Sunnylands for a two-day meeting that was noted for its unusual informality and was interpreted as a milestone in their nations’ often tense and generally stilted four-decade diplomatic history.

Sunnylands is “conducive to a conversation” between Mr. Obama and King Abdullah, “given all the issues they face and given their warm relationship,” said Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman.

Mr. Obama will be staying at the estate through Sunday — the canary-yellow master bedroom is equipped with speakers that pipe in the songs of the birds outdoors.

The president arrived at the Palm Springs International Airport about 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time on a day when the temperature hovered around 90 degrees.

Hours earlier, Mr. Obama delivered remarks in Fresno, Calif., more than 300 miles to the north, about the federal response to California’s severe drought. The water shortage has placed extra scrutiny on usage here in the Coachella Valley, where intensive irrigation has transformed the desert scrubland into lush lawns and golf courses.

Palm Springs residents use 736 gallons of water per day, among the highest usage rate in the state, according to a state database.

The president has no public events scheduled beyond the meeting with King Abdullah, and he is expected to spend much of the time golfing. (He does not have to go far for a quick fix: Sunnylands has a nine-hole course.)

King Abdullah arrived here on Thursday, and visited with Gov. Jerry Brown of California ahead of Mr. Obama’s arrival. “Meeting with the King of Jordan to discuss drought, the efficient use of water and renewable energy,” Mr. Brown said in a tweet that included a photo of the two on a sunny path, in unnecessary blazers.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/15/us/politics/syria-is-expected-to-be-main-topic-as-obama-meets-with-king-of-jordan.html

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