US promises more aid to Jordan to cope with refugees

تم نشره في Sat 15 February / Feb 2014. 03:20 PM - آخر تعديل في Sat 15 February / Feb 2014. 04:11 PM

WASHINGTON — US 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.

Obama unveiled the offers yesterday while he welcomed His Majesty King Abdullah 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.

“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 King Abdullah. “It puts a great strain on the resources of Jordan.”

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.

The president didn’t say yesterday what level of funding his administration will recommend.

While Obama has staked his foreign policy on a “pivot” to Asia, he has been unable to turn attention away from the Middle East.

Obama is “trying to show some love to our friends in the Middle East and tamp down some of the complaints that the administration has decided to forget the Middle East and just pay attention to Asia,” said Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington policy center.

Jordan is “the fulcrum of virtually everything we do in the Middle East,” Alterman said.


Syrian refugees registered in Jordan now total 571,457, according to UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency. The agency’s records show 2.4 million registered Syrian refugees throughout the region.

The crisis in Syria has prompted additional aid commitments to Jordan, according to the Congressional Research Service. Obama, visiting Jordan last March, pledged to find $200 million to help with costs related to Syrian refugees.

Congress last year said the U.S. could provide as much as $150 million to Jordan to improve security on the Syrian border and $340 million for regional and Iraqi border security, The U.S. last year delivered 35 mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles to Jordan and made its first loan guarantee to the country.

U.S. humanitarian assistance for Syrians inside and outside the country, and to neighboring countries hosting refugees, has surpassed $1.7 billion, Kerry said last month.

In a letter last week, Elisa Massimino, president and chief executive officer of advocacy group Human Rights First, urged Obama to offer Jordan more U.S. aid. Abdullah should ease restrictions and border closures, which Massimino said increasingly leaves Syrians with nowhere to go.

Massimino said the U.S. should commit to resettling at least 15,000 refugees, although “ultimately, the solution to this crisis lies in cessation of the violence that is causing innocent people to flee for their lives,” she said. (Bloomberg)