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Obama announces an additional $200 million to help Jordan with Syrian refugees

US President Barack Obama and King Abdullah II of Jordan held a press conference today in Amman.

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King Abdullah II of Jordan. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama and King Abdullah II of Jordan held a press conference today in Amman.

Obama is in Jordan for one night following his first official visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories to hold talks with Abdullah on political reform in Jordan and the impact of Syria’s civil war on the country.

Abdullah was the first Arab leader Obama welcomed to the Oval Office, and Abdullah called Obama "an old friend" at the news event.

Abdullah said the two talked extensively about the Syrian crisis.

“We are all horrified by the loss of life and brutality of the conflict,” he said. “We are extremely concerned of the risk of prolonged sectarian conflict that, if it continues as we’re seeing, leads to the fragmentation of Syria, which obviously has disastrous consequences on the region for generations to come.”

Jordan is sheltering nearly 436,000 Syrian refugees, a figure expected to rise to 700,000 by the end of this year, as people fleeing vicious fighting between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and rebel groups spill over its borders.

“What we are facing now is an urgent need for the international community to help in humanitarian assistance to catch up to the challenges we’re facing as the countries bordering Syria,” Abdullah said. “Not only do we need to look at the ability to stockpile humanitarian supplies to the Syria people inside their country, but also to assist those that have fled.”

Obama announced that his administration would work with Congress to provide Jordan with an additional $200 million in budget support in 2013 to care for Syrian refugees and Jordanian communities affected by the crisis.

“The Jordanian people have displayed extraordinary generosity, but the strains of so many refugees inevitably is showing,” Obama said. “This is a heavy burden, and the international community needs to step up to make sure they are helping to shoulder this burden.”

Obama and Abdullah said they discussed Jordan's steps towards becoming a country with a parliamentary government.

 “I very much welcome (Abdullah's) commitment to active citizenship, where citizens play a larger role in the future of this nation," Obama said. "At a time of so much change and tumult in the region, His Majesty recognizes Jordan has a great opportunity to show the benefits of genuine and peaceful reform, including stronger political parties, good governance and transparency.”

Abdullah also praised Obama's efforts to reinvigorate Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.

“We are very delighted by the vision and the depth of wisdom the president showed over the past several days in his trip with the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Abdullah said. “The two-state solution is the only way to go."

Jordan, which has a majority Palestinian population, is one of only two Arab countries to have signed a peace treaty with Israel.

Obama will return to the US tomorrow after a sight-seeing trip to Petra, weather permitting.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/jordan/130322/jordan-obama-hold-press-conference-king-abdullah-liv