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King holds summit meeting with Obama

By JT - Feb 25,2016 - Last updated at Feb 25,2016

His Majesty King Abdullah, accompanied by HRH Crown Prince Hussein, holds talks with US President Barack Obama at the White House on Wednesday (Photo courtesy of Royal Court)

AMMAN – His Majesty King Abdullah on Wednesday held a summit meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House over the global efforts to fight terrorism, the latest developments in the Syrian crisis and Mideast peace.

The meeting, attended by HRH Crown Prince Hussein, also addressed ways to "entrench the strategic partnership between Jordan and the US, in light of the pivotal role Jordan is playing in the region", according to a Royal Court statement.

At a joint press conference following the talks, the two leaders stressed their keenness to maintain coordination and consultation as they deal with the challenges that face the region and the world and ways to enhance bilateral ties.

The King paid tribute to Washington’s continued support to Jordan, noting that no country has supported Jordan as did the US, “whether it is to the economy, so that we can take the challenge of refugees to our country; but also to the military and security, so that we can defend our borders, but also secure our people.”

His Majesty also voiced appreciation of Obama’s leadership in dealing with the Daesh terrorist group, at a time when the international community is attempting to find “a political solution” to the conflict in Syria.

In addition to Syria and the anti-terror fight, the King said the talks also tackled means to revive the Mideast peace process to bring “hope to the Israelis and Palestinians”.

“These are obviously challenging times, but hope is something that we have to bring to both sides,” His Majesty said in his statement.

In response to a question on the situation in Syria and Jordan-US cooperation in this regard, His Majesty said: “The relationship and coordination with the United States is outstanding and one of the reasons we are here is to make sure that we are taking the coordination between our two countries to the next level.”

“As to what is happening in Syria, obviously the political process is, I think, the priority at the moment and we are all supportive of what John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov are doing as part of the political process; but at the same time making sure that the second part of that dimension is the fight against ISIS and Daesh. And I think that both elements are complementary to each other.”

In his statement, Obama said the talks “with one of our most stalwart allies in the world” covered the enormous challenges facing Jordan, as well as the situation in Syria, Iraq and the war against Daesh.

“Jordan has been an outstanding partner in that process,” said Obama. “As I’ve said publicly, we have seen progress in pushing back against ISIL in territory both in Iraq and now in some portions of Syria.  But a lot of work remains to be done.”

The president lauded the Kingdom’s “enormous” contribution to the anti-terror fight, noting that “Jordan is a country that punches above its weight when it comes to the fight against ISIL”.

Obama said he briefed the King on his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the cessation of hostilities agreement, noting that he would not want to raise expectations on the deal.

“The situation on ground is difficult, but we have seen modest progress over the course of the last week or so with respect to humanitarian access to populations that are threatened.”

Obama continued that the talks also covered the question of refugees hosted by Jordan and other countries of the region, affirming Washington’s appreciation of the Kingdom’s hospitality in hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian nationals, and voicing his country’s continued support for Jordan in this effort.

He also voiced pride in US assistance to Jordan: “Considering everything that Jordan is doing essentially for the region and the world, and the strains that this has placed their economy under, I think it’s important for them to know that the United States is there every step of the way.”

The US president also paid tribute to the King’s role in Mideast peace talks and efforts to ease tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

“His Majesty has continued to be a voice of reason and moderation and tolerance for all the parties concerned in this issue. And we very much appreciate his partnership in the process,” said Obama, adding that the US is “lucky to have a friend like Jordan”.

He said he hopes that the Jordanian people would feel that the US is with them during these difficult times, reassuring that the two countries are in sync on all issues discussed and “that will continue as long as I’m president and long after I’m gone, thanks to the leadership of His Majesty”.

According to a Royal Court statement, the two leaders discussed the Syrian crisis in light of the latest developments related to the ceasefire and the follow-up on the implementation of the Munich security conference communiqué on the ground.

The King and Obama stressed the importance of reaching a comprehensive political solution that ends the bloodshed and ensures the unity of the Syrian land and people, the statement said.

The leaders also discussed the outcomes of the London donor conference, calling for implementing them and supporting Jordan through a sustainable approach based on attracting investments and stimulating growth, rather than merely providing assistance, the statement added.

Talks, according to the statement, also covered means to support the Iraqi government’s efforts to combat terrorism and fight the Daesh terror group, with emphasis placed on the need to ensure Iraq’s unity and inclusiveness. In addition, the two leaders discussed international anti-terror efforts, reiterating the importance of adopting a holistic approach that entails security, military and ideological elements.

The King and Obama also called for combating all terror hotbeds in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, as well as other regions, the statement said.

Discussions touched on the situation in Libya, with the two leaders urging action and unified efforts to prevent Daesh from securing a foothold there.

Moreover, His Majesty and the US president exchanged views on means to revive Middle East peace talks.

The King reaffirmed the importance of having the Palestinian cause as first and foremost, describing it as the region’s central issue.

The US has upped its support for Jordan, with the Congress approving an increase of yearly aid from $1 billion to $1.275 billion, the statement said.

The aid is aimed at bolstering the Kingdom’s economy, safeguarding its borders, combating terrorism and alleviating the pressures brought on by regional crises.

Obama has also signed the 2015 US-Jordan defence cooperation law, which enhances military cooperation, gives Jordan the same level as US allies within NATO and facilitates measures related to military assistance to the Kingdom.

Remarks by King, Obama to press

Following is the full transcript of the press statement by His Majesty King Abdullah and US President Barack Obama in Washington on Wednesday:

US President Barack Obama: Well, it’s wonderful to be back with one of our most stalwart allies in the world, King Abdullah of Jordan, and his delegation.  We’ve had, as usual, excellent consultation about the enormous challenges that His Majesty and the Jordanian people face in a very difficult time, in a very difficult neighbourhood.

We spent the bulk of our discussion around the situation in Syria, Iraq, and our joint efforts to combat ISIL. Jordan has been an outstanding partner in that process. As I’ve said publicly, we have seen progress in pushing back against ISIL in territory both in Iraq and now in some portions of Syria.  But a lot of work remains to be done.  And so the coordination between our nations and other coalition partners is absolutely critical. And Jordan has made enormous contribution.  Jordan is a country that punches above its weight when it comes to the fight against ISIL.

With respect to Syria, I briefed him on the conversations that I’ve had with President Putin and the cessation of hostilities agreement that has been put in place. 

We are very cautious about raising expectations on this.  The situation on ground is difficult, but we have seen modest progress over the course of the last week or so with respect to humanitarian access to populations that are threatened.

If, over the next several weeks, we can see some lessening of the violence that’s been wracking that country, then that provides us a basis to build a longer-term ceasefire both in the north and the south, and allows us to move forward on the political transition that ultimately is going to be necessary to bring an end to the civil war in Syria.

It also would allow us, then, to focus all of our efforts — all the parties in the entire world community, including Russia — in going after ISIL, something that right now they are not doing and are not focused on.

We talked about refugees and the burden that Jordan, as well as other countries in the region, are bearing. The Jordanian people have been extraordinarily generous in accommodating the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have been fleeing the fighting, and the United States is the leading contributor to humanitarian efforts to house and provide basic care to these refugees. But the numbers continue to grow. And I expressed to His Majesty our commitment to make sure that as they continue to be open to helping people in need, they will have a strong partner in the United States and we will make sure that our money is where our mouth is in terms of looking after these refugee populations.

In addition, I’m proud of the both economic and military assistance that we have consistently provided to Jordan. Considering everything that Jordan is doing essentially for the region and the world, and the strains that this has placed their economy under, I think it’s important for them to know that the United States is there every step of the way.

Finally, we discussed the situation in Israel and the West Bank, and the increasing tensions that exist between Israelis and Palestinians there.  His Majesty has been a critical component of reducing some of the immediate sources of tension around the Temple Mount and visits there.  But we continue to agree that it’s important for us to provide both sides a sense of possibility and hope, and not simply despair. That’s hard to do. And so we have explored ideas in terms of how we can make progress. But His Majesty has continued to be a voice of reason and moderation and tolerance for all the parties concerned in this issue. And we very much appreciate his partnership in the process.

So we’re lucky to have a friend like Jordan. Hopefully, they feel that the United States has been with them during these very difficult times. The good news is, is that, whether it’s fighting ISIL, reducing the violence in Syria and trying to get that country on a track for political reconciliation, trying to bring Israelis and Palestinians to recognise their shared interest in peace − on all these issues, our countries have been in sync. And that will continue as long as I’m President and long after I’m gone, thanks to the leadership of His Majesty.

Appreciate you being here.  

His Majesty King Abdullah: Mr President, thank you very much for really your kind words. I am delighted to be back here in Washington.

And I just wanted to echo the kind words that the President has just said. We are so grateful for the support that you have shown me and our people, our country. Truly, no country other than the United States has given us so much support; whether it is to the economy, so that we can take the challenge of refugees to our country; but also to the military and security, so that we can defend our borders, but also secure our people.

The help that we have gotten from you, Mr President, from your administration and from the Congress and the people of the United States is something that is very difficult to express in any words and we are very, very grateful for that.

I am also here to thank the President for his tremendous leadership in dealing with the threat of ISIS/Daesh. Specifically when it comes to the challenges in Syria, we are working together as part of the international team to try to find, as the President said, a political solution. Yet, at the same time, the threat of Daesh is one that has taken some of our consultations today in how do we defeat Daesh as quickly as possible, not only in Syria but also to reach out to our Iraqi brethren to make sure that they too are part of this struggle against extremism.

I do think that we are moving in the right direction. The coordination with the United States is exceptional. And, again, I would like to thank you Sir, and all your institutions, for working very closely with us in this respect.

So, I am actually leaving Washington very optimistic about the level of support from the United States, the leadership that the President has shown on the issue of Syria and hopefully, the discussions between yourselves and the Russians will move the process in the right direction. But also looking at the larger picture, when looking at the challenge of ISIS and their franchises around the world, I think that the future looks much better with the leadership of the United States.

We did, again as the president said, speak about bringing hope to the Israelis and Palestinians. These are obviously challenging times, but hope is something that we have to bring to both sides. And we did talk about this issue to see what we could do in 2016 to bring the momentum into the right direction. 

But I actually am here just to thank the President and the American people for all the support they have given for our country and how truly grateful I am for your leadership, Sir, for your support to me and my people.

Thank you. 

Question: Your Majesty, Nadia Bilbassy with Al Arabiya.  In light of the Syria accord and the cessation of hostility, how do you envision the next step in terms of fighting ISIS and pursuing a political career? And, if I may, can you describe the current cooperation and coordination with the United States, considering the rise in challenges and crises in the Middle East?

King Abdullah: Well, as I said earlier on, the relationship and coordination with the United States is outstanding and one of the reasons we are here is to make sure that we are taking the coordination between our two countries to the next level. 

As to what is happening in Syria, obviously the political process is, I think, the priority at the moment and we are all supportive of what John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov are doing as part of the political process; but at the same time making sure that the second part of that dimension is the fight against ISIS and Daesh. And I think that both elements are complementary to each other.

Specifically, obviously to the southern part of Syria, is whether or not — based in connection to what the Americans and Russians are doing — can we get a ceasefire going into the south alongside our border as part of a building block of the political process that helps move the politics of this issue forward between the regime and opposition forces because at the end of the day Daesh is the enemy for all of us. 

We will have to see how things are moving between the two foreign ministers, but again, we have got some good initiatives moving in that and we are just keeping our fingers crossed that the political process continues to move in the right direction; and so far I think things are... we’ll have to keep our fingers crossed.

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