Obama pledges additional aid for Jordan

McClatchy Washington BureauFebruary 15, 2014 

— President Barack Obama told King Abdullah II that he would renew a five-year aid package set to expire in September that has been providing $660 million a year, and provide another $1 billion in loan guarantees to Jordan.

“The people of Jordan have been very generous” in taking in Syrian refugees, Obama told reporters at the start of a meeting with Abdullah. “It puts a great strain on the resources of Jordan.”

While announcing the continued financial support, Obama said they would press for a political solution to the crisis in Syria that drives the refugees into Jordan. “Both of us recognize that you can't just treat the symptoms,” Obama said.

The king referred to the generous support of the United States. "The leadership the United States has shown has been critical," he said.

The United States is the largest donor to Syrian refugees, spending $1.7 billion so far, including millions of dollars to Jordan, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Of the 2.4 million Syrian refugees registered in the region, nearly 600,000 have fled to Jordan, a country with just over 6 million people, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

USAID estimates it will cost Jordan $900 million this year to house the refugees. That will put a further strain on the nation’s economy, which is already facing a $3.2 billion budget deficit.

The United States currently has a five-year agreement to provide Jordan $660 million a year, which includes $360 million in economic support and $300 million in military financing. Senior administration officials would not say how much the new aid package would total.

While visiting Jordan last year, Obama pledged $200 million in aid to Jordan, which has seen a strain in services, including water, electricity, hospitals and schools, from the influx of Syrian refugees.

Congress authorized a $1.25 billion loan guarantee for Jordan last year, essentially making the U.S. responsible for repaying the money should Jordan default, and included up to $150 million in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2014 to Jordan for security along its border with Syria.

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