President Obama pledged $1 billion in loan guarantees for Jordan, a Middle East ally that is dealing with a flood of Syrian refugees who have crossed the border.
The president made the loan guarantee commitment during a meeting Friday evening with Jordan's King Abdullah II at Sunnylands, the Annenberg estate in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Obama also extended an aid package for the country for five years.
With a population of 6.5 million people, Jordan, which shares a border with Syria, has been forced to deal with 600,000 refugees that have fled the deadly violence. The influx of people has strained public services and the nation's economy.
Jordan is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, and the U.S. already provides $1 billion annually. Sandwiched between Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Israel, Jordan has played a direct role in Middle East peace negotiations and is a strong advocate of free trade between the U.S. and the Arab world.
Most of the conversations between Obama and Abdullah Friday occurred behind closed doors, although they gave brief remarks in front of reporters at the start of the meeting.
“It is a great pleasure to welcome my good friend,” Obama said. “It's wonderful to be able to host him here at the beautiful Sunnylands. This gives me an opportunity to have an extensive consultation with his majesty.”
Obama also made a point of showering praise on Abdullah's continued support and close ties to the U.S.
“I think it's fair to say that we have very few friends, partners and allies around the world who have been as steadfast and reliable as his majesty King Abdullah, as well as the people of Jordan,” he said. “In a region that obviously is going through enormous changes, the friendship between our peoples has been a constant.”
“Our cooperation on a whole host of issues is extensive,” he added.
On the Syria refugee crisis, Obama said the people of Jordan have been “very generous in absorbing hundreds of thousands of displaced persons” but stressed that the crisis cannot be resolved quickly and that is why the U.S. is providing assistance to Jordan as well as humanitarian aid to the region.
The president said that both the U.S. and Jordan will be “working aggressively” at the United Nations and at the regional level to try to provide basic humanitarian assistance to people who are suffering in Syria.
Abdullah thanked Obama for his support, as well as the American people's. He commended the U.S. for its “diligence” in trying to pursue a Middle East peace accord between the Palestinian people and Israel.
The immediate crisis facing Jordan is the rise of extremism and sectarian violence in Syria, he said.
He expressed deep concern about the “spillover effect” in Jordan and the region if “we don't find a solution.”
“We do hope that the rest of the international community also steps up and catches up in the support not only for the Syrian refugees, but also the impact it has on Jordanians and Jordanian infrastructure, as well as looking at mechanisms of how we can push humanitarian supplies into Syria,” he said.