U.S. Boosts Aid to Jordan Despite Threat to Cut Support Over UN Vote

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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi shake hands in Amman, Jordan, February 14, 2018.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi shake hands in Amman, Jordan, February 14, 2018. Credit: Raad Adayleh/AP

The United States announced on Wednesday that it will increase its annual financial support to Jordan as part of a new memorandum of understanding between the two countries.

Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi signed the memorandum with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is visiting Amman as part of his five-nation tour of the region. The trip will not include a visit to Israel.

The announcement comes only two months after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to reduce the assistance it gives to countries that voted against his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital at the United Nations. Not only did Jordan vote against the U.S. in that instance, but it was also one of the loudest critics of Trump's decision, warning that it would lead to instability and hurt the prospects of peace.

The resolution easily passed at the UN General Assembly in December, with 128 member states voting in favor and a mere nine voting against it.

Under the new agreement, the amount of foreign assistance to Jordan will grow to $1.2 billion per year, an annual increase of more than $200 million.

Two weeks after Trump's declaration on December 7, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley sent a letter to representatives of UN member-states, warning them against supporting a resolution rejecting the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

"The president will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those who voted against us," she wrote in the letter.

A statement released by the State Department on Wednesday lauded Jordan for its commitments to fighting terrorism and supporting American objectives in the Middle East. It also made it clear that the agreement is "a signal of the United States’ continuing commitment to Jordan’s stability, prosperity, and security."

The State Department also said that "The MOU supports King Abdullah II’s political and economic reform agenda, while simultaneously mitigating the effects of regional crises, including the impact of Syrian and Iraqi refugees on Jordanian communities."

At a press conference in Amman, Tillerson said that the U.S. takes "special note of His Majesty’s interest in the peace between Israel and the Palestinians and his tireless support in pursuit of such a peace. Jordan has a unique and positive role and is of great importance as we continue to pursue President Trump’s goal of a lasting and comprehensive peace."

He added, "I think it’s important to note that when President Trump made his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, he first committed to respecting Jordan’s role as the Custodian of the Holy Sites. And secondly, he made clear that the positions on the final boundaries or borders of Jerusalem is a matter that’s left for the parties to negotiate and discuss and would be dealt with in the final status of issues, all of which are subject to negotiation."

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