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King meets Obama, says ‘cautiously optimistic’ over Mideast peace prospects

By JT - Feb 15,2014 - Last updated at Feb 15,2014

AMMAN – His Majesty King Abdullah said that he is cautiously optimistic regarding the fate of the ongoing Middle East peace efforts.

On Syria and regional turmoil, King Abdullah said during a two-and-a-half-hour meeting with US President Barack Obama Friday (early Saturday Amman time) that extremism and sectarian conflict are the main concerns at the time being.

Meanwhile, Obama announced that his country will offer another round of loan guarantees for Jordan worth $1 billion to help the Kingdom access international capital markets, adding that the US will extend for five years the memorandum of understanding with Jordan, which he said allows the country to pursue the kind of development that will not only help the people of Jordan but help the region as a whole, according to the Royal Court and the transcript of the two leaders’ remarks posted on the website of the White House. 

On Jordan’s reform drive, the King said regional turmoil would not be an excuse to impede plans to achieve political reform and improve Jordan’s economy and living quality of Jordanians.  

The meeting took place at Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in California, where the King earlier met with its governor, Jerry Brown. 

 

Mideast

 

According to a Royal Court statement, the King said in his remarks ahead of his one-on-one meeting with Obama that Jordan remains a stakeholder in all final status negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.

“Our national interests in these issues are of paramount importance. I am cautiously optimistic, even with the major challenges that America has been working tirelessly to improve the situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” he said, adding that the US’ relentless efforts to bring the partners closer over the past month “gave us hope”. 

Obama, for his part, described the Mideast conflict as a critical issue, noting that King Abdullah, like his father His Majesty the late King Hussein, has had an “enormous stake in and investment in, and has been a very capable and trustworthy partner”. 

 

Syria 

 

His Majesty said the main challenge presently is how to bring a political, comprehensive solution to the Syrian crisis, while one major concern in the area is the rise of extremism in Syria and sectarian violence. He warned against further spillover of the crisis if no political solution is forged.

Both leaders agreed on the need to increase international support for Jordan to meet the challenges generated by the immense pressure of Syrian refugees and the impact it has on Jordanians and the country’s infrastructure, and to work out mechanisms to make sure that all Syrians in need for such relief aid are reached. 

For his part, Obama said partners are working aggressively at the United Nations and regional levels to try to provide basic humanitarian assistance and access to people who are suffering tremendously as a consequence of the war inside Syria.  He criticised the Syrian regime for “showing very little regard” for the well-being of the people.  

“We’re going to continue to strategise on how we can effectively change the calculus inside the country so that we can have a Syria that is intact, that is respectful of all groups, that ends the killing, and that allows for a representative government that can provide peace and prosperity for everybody there,” Obama said.

Partnership 

 

King Abdullah thanked Obama and the American people for the “outstanding support that you’ve shown Jordan with all the changes that we’re facing”, stressing that with all of the challenges that are ahead, “I will continue our comprehensive reform programme.  We’re not using the challenges in our region as an excuse to waver… our reform process.”

Being a member of the UN Security Council for the coming two years, Amman and Washington will cooperate to address regional and international issues and help bring peace and prosperity to the Middle East and beyond, the two leaders agreed.

Commending Jordan’s commitment to cooperation and partnership, the US president said: “I think it’s fair to say that we have very few friends, partners and allies around the world that have been as steadfast and reliable as His Majesty King Abdullah, as well as the people of Jordan.  In a region that obviously is going through enormous changes, the friendship between our peoples has been a constant.”

He also commended the resilience of King Abdullah as he pursues reforms and change despite the regional trouble and resistance to the plans.

“We’ve been very impressed with the fact that although oftentimes difficult and although it meets resistance sometimes, His Majesty has been able to move forward with the reforms that meet the IMF programme that has been put together,” the president said.  

He announced: “We will be providing the Kingdom of Jordan a $1 billion loan guarantee fund that will help Jordan access the international capital markets, as well as extend for five years the memorandum of understanding that we have with the Kingdom of Jordan that allows that country to pursue the kind of development that will not only help the people of Jordan but help the region as a whole.”

Moreover the King met in Washington on Thursday with US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and discussed ways to develop cooperation between the countries. Discussions also covered regional political developments.  

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