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US views Jordan as strategic partner — ambassador

By JT - Oct 18,2020 - Last updated at Oct 18,2020

Henry T. Wooster

AMMAN — Newly appointed US Ambassador to Jordan, Henry T. Wooster said his country has viewed the Kingdom as a strategic partner for more than 70 years, and stressed that Washington will continue to support Jordan’s economic growth and resilience. 

In an interview with the Jordan News Agency, Petra, Wooster said the US will further trade integration with neighbours in Iraq and the West Bank, and work with Jordan to secure its borders against criminal and terrorist threats.

Asked about his priorities in the next stage, the ambassador said: “My priorities come from the president, who said: ‘The United States is deeply committed to preserving our strong relationship and to strengthening our longstanding support for Jordan’.” 

Responding to a question on the Jordan-US security cooperation, Wooster stressed that both countries will continue to stand together against threats in the region and will always seek to bolster joint cooperation. 

“We enjoy working with professional colleagues in the Jordan Armed Forces, and together, we always look for ways to bolster our cooperation. We look forward to the Eager Lion exercise with our Jordanian colleagues and we will continue strengthening Jordan’s border,” he added.

On the Jordan-US economic partnership, the ambassador pledged that the US assistance will continue to support Jordan’s stability and growth, noting that the US and Jordan have a record of collaborations in a host of infrastructure projects. 

He also paid tribute to bilateral energy cooperation noting that Jordan’s renewable energy sector now accounts for almost 20 per cent of the country’s electricity production. 

“Our joint efforts to capitalise, responsibly, on Jordan’s extraordinary cultural heritage continue to create opportunities for Jordanians in the tourism and hospitality sectors,” Wooster pointed out.

The ambassador emphasised that the US remains confident in the Jordanian government, noting that the US government has already completed the transfer of $850 million in direct assistance to Jordan’s budget during the current year, in addition to millions more in grants to implementing partners in the Kingdom. 

Replying to a question if the COVID-19 crisis has affected US-Jordanian cooperation, Wooster said “the crisis illustrates how important our partnership is to both Jordanians and Americans”.

In this regard, he cited the recent opening of the refurbished emergency care ward in Al Bashir Hospital, which will help Jordan respond to COVID and bolster emergency healthcare here for years to come. 

He indicated that in the last 20 years, the US has provided over $1.8 billion in health assistance to Jordan’s healthcare system, which helped thousands of Jordanians recover from COVID-19. 

He noted: “In May, the United States provided $8 million specifically to aid refugee populations in Jordan and to improve the country’s testing capacity, which has proven vital to Jordan’s national response.”

The ambassador pointed out that COVID-19 is not just a public health crisis but an economic crisis that will challenge every global economy to restructure and find new ways to compete.

“I’m optimistic Jordan will adjust. One promising example is how quickly the Jordanian manufacturing industry began producing much-needed medical supplies,” the envoy said. 

As a reminder that the US-Jordanian relationship benefits both sides, the ambassador said: “Americans were grateful to receive Jordan’s donation of personal protective equipment and other supplies to help our own national response.” 

Turning to trade ties, Wooster noted that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the US-Jordan Free Trade Agreement (FTA), saying: “Since that time, we have seen an 800 per cent increase in bilateral trade, now valued at about $5 billion in goods and services. The United States is Jordan’s largest export market.”

The ambassador stressed that he is confident that both sides will continue to work to see Jordanian and US businesses collaborate to create new opportunities. 

Replying to a question if he used the phrase “New Jordan” during his congressional testimony, Wooster said: “I checked my testimony again to make sure – but I never used that phrase. Washington was surprised to see its ambassador-designate misquoted. Jordan is a sovereign country and its future is in the hands of Jordanians.”

With regard to the US views on Jordan’s upcoming parliamentary elections on November 10, the ambassador underlined that voting should always be free and fair, accessible to eligible voters and as safe as possible during this global pandemic, noting that both countries have exchanged invitations to each other’s diplomats to observe mutual elections.

Asked if the US is still committed to its leadership role in the Middle East region and its issues related to the Palestinian cause, the crises in Syria, Yemen and Libya, in addition to Iran, Wooster emphasised that his country remains committed to standing with its partners, and especially, in the face of threats and challenges. 

In this context, he said: “Jordan’s diplomatic leadership is crucial. A key element of my job is ensuring the US government is communicating and coordinating with our Jordanian counterparts on all these issues. We share the goal of a stable region.” 

Wooster emphasised that his country appreciates Jordan’s willingness to host Syrian refugees, noting that since the start of the Syrian crisis, the US has provided nearly $1.5 billion in humanitarian aid to organisations assisting Syrian refugees and vulnerable host community members in Jordan.

With regard to the Middle East peace process, the ambassador said: “We urge the nations of the Middle East to set aside their differences, unite against the common enemy of civilisation, and work together toward the noble aims of security and prosperity.” 

Wooster stressed that his country continues to encourage Israelis and Palestinians to resume negotiations and make lasting peace and economic prosperity for all a reality.

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