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Jordanian-US summit held in Amman
Amman, 22 March 2013

His Majesty King Abdullah and US President Barack Obama on Friday held talks in Amman on means to enhance bilateral cooperation and developments in the region.

The two leaders stressed keenness on promoting cooperation and strategic partnership between the two countries to serve joint interests. The bilateral meeting was attended by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II and was followed by an extended meeting attended by senior officials from both sides.

King Abdullah and President Obama discussed efforts to realise a just, comprehensive and lasting peace based on the two-state solution, which is the only formula to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

They also discussed the consequences of the Syrian crisis and the huge burden that Jordan shoulders as a result of hosting Syrian refugees.

At a joint press conference following the talks, the King said that he had held "very fruitful" talks with President Obama, thanking the US for its support to Jordan. ''We expressed deep concern over the bloodshed in Syrian'' the King said, stressing the need for a "peaceful political transition" in the neighboring country. King Abdullah also affirmed the need for assisting countries affected by the Syrian crisis, including Jordan, which hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees in the area.

"There are over 460,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, accounting for 10 per cent of the country's population Hosting the Syrian refugees costs Jordan around $550 million annually and we expect the figure to double as the number of refugees is expected to reach a million by the end of the year," His Majesty said.

On peace efforts, the King affirmed Jordan's commitment to the peace process, stressing the US key role to re-launch peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel to realize the two-state solution, which is the only formula to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

His Majesty also expressed satisfaction over accomplishments which have been achieved in Jordan in various fields, noting reform steps adopted in this respect

During the press conference, Obama stressed the strong Jordanian-US relations in various areas, highlighting cooperation ties between the two countries, especially in the educational, developmental, scientific and security domains.

He also praised the King's efforts to realize peace in the region, voicing keenness on promoting bilateral relations with Jordan.

President Obama also congratulated the Jordanian people on the recent parliamentary elections, which he said "forms a positive step towards a fair and transparent political process".

"Jordan is an invaluable element and a great friend we will continue to support and work with Jordan," the US president said.

Voicing appreciation for Jordan for hosting Syrian refugees, Obama said the US will provide humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees in the Kingdom.

He also underlined the US commitment to the security of Jordan, announcing an aid package of $200 million for Jordan to help the kingdom cope with the influx of refugees fleeing the deadly violence in Syria.

He said that he would ask the U.S. Congress to provide the funds as "budget support" to aid Jordan in providing for the refugees.

On the peace process, Obama said the Palestinians and the Israelis need to take steps to resume the peace talks, noting the importance of His Majesty's efforts to help achieve a just and lasting peace between the Palestinians and Israel

Responding to a question on how long Jordan expected to keep its borders open to the Syrian refugees, His Majesty said that it was a humanitarian issue.

"How are you going to turn back women, children and the wounded? This is something that we just can't do. It's not the Jordanian way. We have historically opened our arms to many of our neighbors through many decades of Jordan's history “said the King.

"Our borders have always been open over the years, we will continue to look after the needs of the Syrian refugees within our means," said King Abdullah.

The Kingdom cannot prevent the Syrian refugees, including women and children, from entering the country, His Majesty explained.

"The problem is obviously the burden it's having on Jordan. We've tried to quantify it as much as possible. The latest figure says it's going to cost us roughly $550 million a year. But if those figures double, as we think they will by the end of the year, then obviously we're talking a billion plus "the King said.

Obama, for his part, outlined efforts the US exerts to end the crisis in Syria, stop the bloodshed and provide humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people.

He also stressed that his country would continue to work with players in the region such as Jordan and Turkey to address the two-year-old crisis in Syria.

Responding to a question on Jordan's readiness to extend asylum to the Syrian president, the King said that "the question is something president Assad has to answer".

The US leader voiced concern that Syria would become a haven for extremists.

"I am very concerned about Syria becoming an enclave for extremism. Because extremists thrive in chaos, they thrive in power vacuums," Obama said .

The violence in Syria has been "heartbreaking," Obama said , adding that the continued loss of civilian life, "should compel all of us to say, ‘what more can we do?’" Commenting on the recent telephone call between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Obama said "he's long felt it was important the two countries restore good relations so they can pursue common interests. The two countries don't have to agree on everything to be able to work together on regional security and other issues." the US president said.

On the peace process, King Abdullah said "obviously last year, we kept Israelis and Palestinians dialogue going simply because we wanted to keep the process alive as much as we could, knowing full well that we were waiting for this opportunity. The President has, I think, finished a very successful visit to both the Israelis and Palestinians". Obviously we’re all consulting at this stage of how to build on this visit, and I believe that as we all share notes, we’ll have a better understanding over the next several weeks, what is the next step, the King noted, stressing that Jordan’s role is to be there as a facilitator and a support to both Israelis and Palestinians, to bring them closer together, so that I believe in the next several weeks to the next several months we’ll have the homework or the framework that allows both sides to come together and move forward.

Jordan obviously will welcome hosting Israelis and Palestinians together if that’s what they want, the King said.

President Obama, for his part said, that "this is a trip to make sure I’m doing my homework. We all recognize how vital it could be to see a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We set expectations low precisely because there’s been a lot of talk over decades but it hasn’t produced the results that everybody wants to see".

My approach here has been let me listen to the parties first; let me find out exactly what the roadblocks are for progress; let me discuss with them ways that we might move those roadblocks out of the way in order to achieve a concrete result, Obama noted.

On the Iranian nuclear file, Obama said that "what I've said from the moment I came into office was that the best resolution of this situation is through diplomacy, and I continue to believe that".

We have organized the international community around a sanctions regime that is having an impact on Iran -- not because we forced other countries to do it; because they recognize that if you trigger a nuclear arms race in this region, as volatile as it is, if you have the prospect of nuclear weapons getting into the hands of terrorists and extremists, that it's not just Israel that's threatened, it's a whole range of people that could be threatened, Obama noted.

As President of the United States that I will maintain every option that’s available to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon because I think the consequences for the region and for the world would be extraordinarily dangerous, Obama said.

On the same issue, the King said that " looking from the Jordanian point of view and the challenges that Jordan faces as we look around the region, the challenges of what the Israelis and the Palestinians that we faced in 2012, the instability as you’re seeing in Syria, we have the concerns as what’s happening in Iraq -- any military action at the moment at this stage is Pandora’s box, because nobody can guarantee what the outcome will be".

Upon arrival at the Royal Hummar Offices, Obama was received by His Majesty at a welcoming ceremony. The two leaders reviewed a guard of honor as a brass band played the national anthems of the two countries.