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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

REMARKS AT SIGNING OF MEMORANDUM REGARDING U.S. BILATERAL ASSISTANCE TO JORDAN

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT 
Signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for U.S. Bilateral Assistance to Jordan
Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh
Four Seasons Hotel
Washington, DC
February 3, 2015

MODERATOR: Good morning, Mr. Secretary, Your Excellency, ambassadors and honored guests. Today, our distinguished guests will sign a U.S.-Jordanian bilateral assistance Memorandum of Understanding. This MOU underlines the strength of our bilateral relationship and our valuable strategic partnership with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and reinforces our shared commitment to the promotion of regional issues.

The MOU is the second of its kind between the United States and Jordan and a reaffirmation of the statement of support provided in the first such document. Secretary Kerry, Foreign Minister Judeh, and each – will each provide some brief remarks prior to the signing. Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Pete. It’s my privilege to be here this morning and to welcome my good friend, the Foreign Minister of Jordan Nasser Judeh, and also to welcome to Washington His Majesty King Abdullah, who I just had an opportunity to meet with and have a good and through discussion.

Recently, when I was with Nasser Judeh, I learned that he is the longest-serving foreign minister in the history of the Hashemite Kingdom.

FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Not from me. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY KERRY: And so obviously, he’s got the formula down pretty well, and it’s a pleasure for me. I really do admire his skill and his counsel and also appreciate his friendship enormously. We’ve worked on a lot of issues closely together, and we continue to as we face the challenge of many, many refugees pouring into Jordan from Syria and also the challenge of Daesh, as well as the Middle East peace process, in which he is just a critical partner.

I’m delighted that we are here today, signing this Memorandum of Understanding, which reflects, in a very powerful way, the depth of the strategic relationship and the partnership between the United States and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. This partnership is founded on mutual respect, as well as mutual interest, and both of our countries prize their independence, and our discussions are always very far-reaching, very candid, as they were this morning.

Frankly, this openness makes even more remarkable the warmth and the closeness of the relationship that we have developed with Jordan. The United States views Jordan, under His Majesty’s wise leadership, as a staunch and stable ally in one of the globe’s most challenged areas. And where there are others who fuel the conflicts, Jordan can always be counted on to try to seek a nonviolent solution, and this is true whether it’s in Syria or the broader Middle East or in the global struggle against terrorism.

Sadly, this approach doesn’t always find itself met with open arms of welcome. And so today, Jordan is facing multiple dangers and challenges in the form of extremist threats and the burden particularly of hosting more than 800,000 refugees in a country whose population is less than 7 million. Increased need means a requirement for increased help, and that is why the Memorandum of Understanding that we are signing today goes well beyond business as usual.

In the past five years, the level of assistance in this memorandum was $600 million annually. Starting now and continuing through 2017, that level will go up sharply to 1 billion a year, which covers a wide range of programs in the areas of economic support, technical help, and security. In addition, we’re extending loan guarantees that will strengthen Jordan’s access to affordable international financing and assist in meeting economic development and reform goals, which Jordan is engaged in implementing.

So we will also be adding to the 467 million that we have already contributed in order to help feed, clothe, educate, and otherwise care for the refugees who have poured into Jordan, primarily from Syria, but also from Iraq. The memorandum that we sign today is necessary and important, but I want to stress that our assistance is a small part of what makes the U.S.-Jordanian relationship so valuable, and I think we can say safely it is valuable to both countries.

We work together in many areas, from military training and international peacekeeping, to health projects and education. And I’ve asked my Special Envoy on Energy Amos Hochstein to explore opportunities with the Kingdom on energy security.

We consult regularly on all aspects of the Middle East peace process, including ways to reduce tensions when, as sometimes happens, emotions flare up and violence threatens. Recently, His Majesty hosted a very important dinner between His Majesty, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and myself, at which we importantly reaffirmed the implementation of the status quo with respect to the mosque in Jerusalem.

And finally, we are both members of the coalition to disrupt and defeat the terrorist group known as Daesh, or by some people as ISIL. In that connection, the people of Jordan need to know that all Americans will join with them in praying for the early and safe return of Lieutenant Moaz al-Kasasbeh. And we call upon his captors to release this brave man so that he could return to his family and his homeland, to at least provide proof of life, which Jordan has asked for. And we express our appreciation once more for the constructive role that King Abdullah and his late father have filled for so many years in the Middle East itself.

As I think about the events in the world today, I am reminded of the continued relevance of King Hussein’s words from 20 years ago, when he said, “Let us not keep silent. Let our voices rise high enough to speak of our commitment to peace for all times to come. And let us tell those who live in darkness, who are enemies of life and true faith, this is where we stand. This is our camp.”

Today’s memorandum reflects that, still today, this very same affirmative and courageous spirit is what binds our countries together. The provisions of this memorandum will strengthen the forces of civility and moderation everywhere, because it will bolster a country and a leadership team that has been steadfast in its support for both.

So Mr. Foreign Minister, thank you for being here. Thank you for the many contributions that you and your country are making to international stability and to regional progress. I’m pleased to call you my friend and appreciate enormously the relationship between our country and what we are signaling today when we sign this memorandum.

FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, dear friend, dear John. I, too, am honored to call you my friend, and I, too, am very, very proud of this relationship that we both have. And I know on behalf of His Majesty how much he personally enjoys the constant consultation with you personally and with President Obama. So I, too, benefit from your experience and from your wise counsel. And it is essential for peace and security in our part of the world for this consultation – this intensive consultation to continue.

Thank you very much for your warm words. Thank you very much for everything that you say and do to promote this friendship. We are proud to say that the relationship between Jordan and the United States goes beyond a friendship. It is a true partnership, especially in the face of the multitude of challenges that we face not just in our part of the world, but globally. And I’m so happy that today marks yet another milestone in this strategic relationship, this strategic partnership, which continues to grow and prosper.

In line with our commitment to this unique friendship and partnership, His Majesty, the King, is here in Washington, D.C. for the second time in a couple of months, meeting with our friends in the Administration, our friends in Congress, our friends in think tanks and NGOs. This, I think, reflects the kind of relationship that we have across the board with the United States, and this is something that we greatly benefit from, and we are committed to preserving and strengthen.

And I hope, Mr. Secretary, that you know – and I know that you know – but we pride ourselves on being your trusted friend and ally also, just like you have shown over the many years of this partnership that you are a trusted friend and an ally that Jordan can always rely on.

And I think in the events that we have seen in our part of the world, in the last four years in particular, not to mention beyond that, Jordan has come out as a shining example of a country with a visionary leadership, but with an implementable program of political, economic, and social reforms, and benchmarks and milestones that we are happy to be meeting as we go along. And our commitment in that regard is unwavering.

The United States has, indeed, always been a true friend, and its commitment to provide Jordan with consistent levels of assistance because of the blind spot that we have in Jordan, which is our economic situation, has proved instrumental – has proved to be instrumental to the success of our development and reform program. The previous MOU signed in 2008 helped the Kingdom through difficult times and made a serious difference to the lives of ordinary Jordanians, who have benefited from the so many programs that were included in that assistance that was provided.

At this time of peril and turbulence – what’s new in our part of the world? – Jordan, again, is committed to the promotion of stability and peace and security in a region where peace and stability and security have eluded us for many, many years. But I want to assure you, Mr. Secretary, as you were reassured by His Majesty, the King, when we met a short while ago, that Jordan’s commitment in meeting all these challenges is unwavering and as steadfast as ever.

But in this time of peril, the renewal of the MOU for another three years at a billion dollars a year is testament to the strength of our bilateral relationship, our shared values, as well as our joint, unwavering commitment to peace and security. It will also help us cope with the burdens not only resulting from regional instability, but in particular, as you mentioned in your remarks, the humanitarian spillover of the Syrian crisis.

You are quite right in mentioning 800,000 refugees that we are hosting, Mr. Secretary; these are the registered refugees. On top of that we have another 700,000 economic migrants. So today, the Syrian population in Jordan stands at 21 percent of the overall population, something that no country, regardless of political or economic might, can cope with.

I would like to thank all our friends here across the board – State Department and elsewhere, all the different agencies – for all the hard work in producing this Memorandum of Understanding. I assure you that this milestone is yet another milestone on the road to a growing, healthy, and strong friendship and strategic partnership. Thank you so much. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: The Minister and Secretary will now sign the MOU.

(The memorandum was signed.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: I would now like to welcome --

FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you to --

MODERATOR: If I can, Ambassador Buran and Ambassador Wells, please.

SECRETARY KERRY: Our two ambassadors – (laughter) – who we are delighted to welcome. Thank you very much.

FOREIGN MINISTER JUDEH: So thank you. Thank you for everything, and thanks to President Obama, the Administration, yourself, and all the agencies. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all very, very much. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you, everybody.