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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 October 2018

Trump meets Jordan's King Abdullah and reveals 'lot of progress' made on peace process

US official did not confirm report of Washington freezing aid to the Palestinian Authority

US President Donald Trump hosted King Abdullah II of Jordan on Monday for an hour-long meeting that discussed the peace process, de-escalation efforts in Syria and boosting aid and bilateral ties with Amman.

In their third summit since Mr Trump took office, King Abdullah and Queen Rania received a warm reception at the White House.

Mr Trump voiced optimism on the peace process. “We’re doing very well in the Middle East. A lot of progress has been made... and it really started with the end of the horrible Iran deal,” he said.

“That … was a disaster, and things are a lot different since we ended that.”

The president thanked King Abdullah, whom he called “a friend”, and lauded his “incredible work” on humanitarian efforts and the issue of refugees.

Jordan hosts more than 1.3 million refugees, mostly those who have left neighbouring Syria since the war started in 2011.

King Abdullah returned the compliment by praising Mr Trump’s “humility”.

“If the rest of the world just took a little bit of your humility and your grace to help us, we would be in a lot better position,” he said.

Mr Trump basked in the moment, telling reporters “remember he used the word ‘humility’ with respect to me. I’m happy with that word. It’s probably the nicest compliment I have received in a long time.”

Bilateral ties, the situation in southern Syria bordering Jordan and the peace process topped the agenda of the White House meeting. Following economic protests and a change in government this month, the king is seeking US support and expansion in trade and aid from Washington.

Last February, the Trump administration approved increasing the annual aid to Jordan to US$1.3 billion (Dh4.77bn), and King Abdullah met the treasury and commerce secretaries on Friday to discuss economic initiatives.

On Syria, the meeting came as signs of continuation of the de-escalation agreement between the US, Jordan and Russia is taking shape, to avoid a wide military confrontation in southern Syria.

The US embassy in Jordan has reportedly issued a statement telling rebels that it is committed to the de-escalation and will offer air support against the Assad regime.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, who is accompanying the king on his visit, tweeted on Saturday:

On the peace process, Mr Trump’s optimism follows a week of meetings for his adviser Jared Kushner and envoy Jason Greenblatt in the region, during which they visited Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar. Mr Kushner said in an interview with Palestinian paper Al Quds that the US peace plan is “almost done” and touted regional support behind the push.

Also on Monday, Israeli channel i24 reported that the US administration has “quietly frozen its aid to the Palestinian Authority pending review” and in accordance with the Taylor Force Act that Congress passed in March.

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The act orders suspension of US assistance that "directly benefits" the Palestinian Authority until it stops “payment to terrorists”. A State Department official, however, told The National that US assistance to the Palestinians "continues to be under review, and we have no announcements on funding at this time”.

The US gives up to $600 million annually to the Palestinians, but not all of the aid goes to the Palestinian Authority. The State Department official did not confirm that there was a freeze in the aid, and the Palestinian mission in Washington was not immediately available for comment.

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