By Stephen Kaufman
IIP Staff Writer
March 22, 2013
President Obama said Jordan is an example of the benefits of peaceful reforms and told King Abdullah II that the United States will work with him and Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour as they build on Jordan’s progress.
Speaking with King Abdullah in Amman March 22, Obama said that despite their difficulty, Jordan’s economic reforms are essential over the long term to create “the kind of growth and opportunity and dynamism in the economy that will help the Jordanian people achieve their dreams.”
The president said he is working with the U.S. Congress to provide Jordan with loan guarantees to help Jordanians improve their infrastructure, education and economy.
“Together, I believe we can help deliver the results that Jordanians deserve — to see their schools better, their roads improved, health care, clean water all enhanced, the training to … get a job or to turn entrepreneurial skills into a business that creates even more jobs,” he said.
Obama praised Jordan’s political reforms and Abdullah’s commitment to “active citizenship, where citizens play a larger role in the future of this nation.”
He said the king recognizes Jordan’s “great opportunity to show the benefits of genuine and peaceful reform, including stronger political parties and good governance and transparency, all of which makes government more effective and makes sure that the people feel a connection to their government.”
The president also commended the Jordanian people for their country’s January 23 parliamentary elections, in which voters chose a new 150-member House of Deputies.
The election “represented a positive step toward a more transparent and credible and inclusive political process,” he said.
King Abdullah said the Jordanian reform model is “the third way in the Middle East,” and aims for strong democratic institutions that will guarantee checks and balances, an empowered parliament and a new constitutional court.
“The hard work is definitely ahead of us,” he said.
“We are looking at Jordan as a model that is evolutionary, consensual and peaceful and ensures pluralism, openness, tolerance, moderation and unity and, equally as important, a level playing field” and which will “ensure safeguards for civil liberties and political rights and obviously encourage political participation,” Abdullah said.
The king expressed concern over the continued violence in Syria and said Jordan is hosting the largest number of Syrian refugees, which has strained the Jordanian economy.
“The numbers have just exceeded 460,000 Syrians. That is 10 percent of our population. And the alarming figures, if the rates continue as we’re seeing today, will probably double by the end of the year,” he said.
President Obama announced that he will work with the U.S. Congress to provide an additional $200 million to Jordan to help care for the refugees and Jordanian communities that have been affected by the violence.
Obama said the Jordanian people have shown “extraordinary generosity” to their Syrian neighbors, but “the strains of so many refugees inevitably is showing.” He urged the international community to “step up to make sure that they are helping to shoulder this burden.”
So far, the United States has been the largest donor of emergency assistance for those affected by the violence in Syria, contributing $385 million in emergency assistance including food, shelters, medical care, psychological support and protection services to Syrians living inside Syria and in neighboring countries.
The additional U.S. assistance to Jordan “will mean more humanitarian assistance and basic services, including education for Syrian children so far from home, whose lives have been upended,” Obama said.