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King meets Obama, says ‘cautiously optimistic’ over Mideast peace prospects
California, 14 February 2014

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

During a two-and-a-half-hour meeting, which took place at Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in California, with US President Barack Obama, King Abdullah said that extremism and sectarian conflict are pressing concerns for the region.

Obama announced that the US will offer another round of loan guarantees for Jordan worth $1 billion to help the Kingdom access international capital markets. He also said that the US will extend the memorandum of understanding with Jordan for another five years, which he said allows the country to pursue the kind of development that will not only help the people of Jordan but the region as a whole.

On Jordan’s reform drive, the King said regional turmoil would not be as an excuse to waiver on the reform political process, and said that Jordan is moving ahead to improve Jordan’s economy and living quality of Jordanians.

The King said in his remarks 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,”  His Majesty 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 been “a very capable and trustworthy partner.”

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 aid are reached.

Obama said that the US and its partners are working aggressively at the United Nations and regional levels to try to provide basic humanitarian assistance 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 its 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.

The King thanked Obama and the American people for the “outstanding support that you’ve shown Jordan with all the challenges that we’re facing”, stressing that Jordan “will continue our comprehensive reform programme.”

As 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, 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 the King as he pursues reforms and change despite the regional trouble and resistance to the plans. “His Majesty has been able to move forward with the reforms that meet the IMF programme that has been put together,” the president said.