President praises King Abdullah as two discuss peace talks, Syria & new financial assistance.

President Barack Obama greets Jordan's King Abdullah II at The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands, Rancho Mirage, Calif., Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin/Times of Israel)

President Barack Obama greets Jordan’s King Abdullah II at The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands, Rancho Mirage, Calif., Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin/Times of Israel)

(Washington, D.C.) — President Obama held a working dinner with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Rancho Mirage, California, on Friday evening to strengthen the vital U.S.-Jordanian alliance and discuss the dangerous and fast-moving environment in the epicenter.

The King is a key player in the region and the stability of Jordan is vital to peace. Please pray for the King, for his family and his advisors, and for all the people of Jordan as they face enormous challenges in a very dangerous neighborhood.

The official word from the White House was that the meeting focused primarily on new U.S. economic assistance to the Hashemite Kingdom given the seriousness of the refugee crisis. There are presently some 571,457 Syrian refugees living in Jordan. This represents nearly 10% of the Jordan’s population and is putting enormous strains on the small Middle Eastern nation that has no oil and few other natural resources.

The Jordanian media, however, suggested a good deal of the dinner focused on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Jordan’s role in helping both sides sign onto the “framework agreement” the President and Secretary Kerry are crafting and pushing so hard.

“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” the King said, adding that US’s relentless efforts to bring the partners closer over the past month “gave us hope,” reported The Jordan Times. Interestingly, the King also noted that “our national interests in these issues are of paramount importance,” hinting that there are sensitive elements of the peace talks that the King is discussing with Mr. Obama that isn’t being publicly reported.

In turn, President Obama spoke highly of His Majesty and the vital role Jordan plays in the region as a key American ally. “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,” the President said. “In a region that obviously is going through enormous changes, the friendship between our peoples has been a constant.”

“President Barack Obama intends to provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to Jordan and to renew an agreement ensuring a minimum level of annual U.S. aid through 2019 as the kingdom copes with a flood of Syrian refugees,” reports Bloomberg news. “Obama unveiled the offers yesterday while he welcomed Jordan’s King Abdullah II to California for a meeting on issues including the civil war in Syria. The leaders met as U.S. officials review options for dealing with the Syrian conflict, which has sent hundreds of thousands of people fleeing into Jordan, threatening the kingdom’s stability.”

Details about U.S. aid to Jordan (from the Bloomberg story):

  • “The people of Jordan have been very generous” in taking in Syrian refugees, Obama said at Sunnylands, the Annenberg Estate in Rancho Mirage, before beginning talks with Abdullah. “It puts a great strain on the resources of Jordan.”
  • The meeting was the first of three Obama is holding with Mideast allies, seeking to reassure them of support as peace talks on Syria stall and the U.S. presses Iran to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions. Obama meets next month in Washington with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then, at month’s end, flies to Saudi Arabia to see King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
  • Last night’s meeting between Obama and Abdullah, both 52, overlaps the deadlocked talks in Geneva between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and the opposition. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Beijing on Feb. 14 that Obama had asked his administration to “to think about various options that may or may not exist” to make progress….
  • The loan guarantee, which requires congressional action, would follow an initial $1.25 billion loan guarantee authorized last year. It would help Jordan borrow money to pay for costs associated with refugee growth and the loss of natural gas from Egypt.
  • Signing another five-year funding agreement would give Jordan a degree of certainty as it struggles with economic and social challenges. Jordan receives $660 million a year from the U.S. under a five-year memorandum of understanding reached in 2008, with $360 million for economic support and another $300 million for military assistance.
  • On top of that, Congress last year allocated $340 million to Jordan through overseas contingency funds. The five-year agreement is set to expire at the end of September.

Details about King Abdullah II’s trip to the U.S. (from the Bloomberg story):

  • For the Jordanian king, it’s the highest-level meeting on a U.S. visit that also has included talks in Washington with Kerry, Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, congressional leaders and appropriators, and leaders of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
  • Kerry, who has been pressing for progress in talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, is also to meet next week with senior Emirati officials in Abu Dhabi.
  • Obama’s meeting with the Jordanian king is part of a weekend visit to California by the president, who stopped earlier in Fresno to discuss the state’s drought with local officials.
  • While the Jordanian monarch was in in the U.S. capital earlier this week, Eric Schultz, an administration spokesman, said the president chose Sunnylands because it allows a chance for an intimate discussion “out of the swirl of Washington.”

Additional coverage:

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