Jordan-US $6 billion aid deal helps repair Jerusalem row

Jordan-US $6 billion aid deal helps repair Jerusalem row
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, and Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, sign agreements in Amman, Jordan. (AP)
Updated 16 February 2018

Jordan-US $6 billion aid deal helps repair Jerusalem row

Jordan-US $6 billion aid deal helps repair Jerusalem row

AMMAN: The signing on Wednesday of a major five-year US aid package for Jordan seemed nearly impossible two months ago.
The kingdom had joined most of the world at the UN General Assembly in opposing US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, despite Washington’s prior threats to cut financial aid to countries that planned to do so.
The $6.38 billion package signed by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi is bigger, and will last longer, than previous agreements.
Dina Kawar, Jordan’s ambassador to the US, who witnessed the signing, told Arab News: “In this time of difficulty, it’s highly significant. More significant is that there were budget cuts in aid, but we weren’t included in these cuts.”
She added: “It includes leeway in how the money can be spent. This means we can plan ahead of time how to use this aid.”
The amount listed in the memorandum of understanding is a 27 percent increase from the last deal, which was for three years. “More funds are likely to be made in the coming years,” Kawar said.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is considering providing support for small and medium-sized businesses in Jordan through an Enterprise Fund.
The amount of the initial grant will vary from $30-50 million annually, according to Arab News sources.
Marwan Muasher, a former Jordanian foreign minister and current vice president of studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Affairs, told Arab News that the most significant part of the agreement is its length.
With the political turmoil in the region and President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy, locking in funding for five years is important, Muasher said.
The State Department said the agreement “highlights the pivotal role Jordan plays in helping foster and safeguard regional stability and supports US objectives such as the global campaign to defeat ISIS (Daesh), counter-terrorism cooperation, and economic development.”
Tillerson reportedly echoed similar sentiments during his meeting with King Abdullah. The Jordan Times said Tillerson voiced US appreciation for Jordan’s role, led by the king, in bolstering regional security and stability. He also praised the kingdom’s efforts in shouldering the Syrian refugee burden.
The aid deal may also be significant in terms of US efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Tillerson tried to heal some of the wounds caused by Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and his intention to move the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Tillerson said Trump recognized Jordan’s special role as custodian of the holy places in Jerusalem.
He added that the president had not specified the borders of the city, and that its final status would be decided by negotiations.
The meeting between Tillerson and the king took place hours before the latter left for Moscow for a state visit.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was in Moscow on Monday to persuade Russia to be more engaged in the peace process.
Samir Barhoum, editor of the Jordan Times, said the signing of the aid deal is a “win win” for both Jordan and the US.
Amman has secured “respectful financial aid, while America has refocused the strategic role that Jordan has and will continue to play in the region,” he said.
Jordan’s importance was clear during US Vice President Mike Pence’s visit last month, which showed that “friends and allies can differ while staying committed to the strategic goals of peace and stability in the region,” Barhoum added.