SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first of all, we’ve done the most important thing, so I’m really delighted, Ayman, to have you back in Washington. The team, our team, have done a lot of good work. But before we get to why we’re actually here today, let me on behalf of the American people extend our deepest condolences to the people of Jordan for the tragic building collapse that you experienced this week in Amman. Our hearts go out to the families of those lost and we wish the injured a swift recovery. To the first responders, to the doctors, we join people around the world in expressing our appreciation and admiration for the work that you’ve done.
So this memorandum of understanding that we’ve just signed is a testament to the strength of the relationship between Jordan and the United States. It reflects a shared interest in a more stable, safe, and prosperous Middle East, and our commitment to deepen the partnership between our governments and between our peoples to help achieve that goal.
This is now the fourth memorandum of understanding that our nations have adopted, going back to 2010, to deepen our strategic partnership. It will not only cover the longest period, but will also provide more assistance than any prior MOU. The MOU will support key reforms conceived of and led by King Abdullah’s government, focusing on improving the lives of Jordanians in tangible ways – reforms like improving essential public services; tackling the water crisis, which is being exacerbated by climate change; expanding economic opportunities so that everyone in Jordan, including women, underserved groups, can reach their full potential.
Ambitious reforms like these take time. They also take courage. With the agreement we signed today, which intends to provide well over a billion dollars in assistance each year for seven years, our Jordanian partners can count on the United States to support them and to help make these goals real.
The MOU is also an investment in Jordan’s exceptional leadership on regional and global challenges. Jordan has long offered a refuge to people displaced by regional conflicts and other crises, something that we’ve seen most recently in the extraordinary compassion that the Jordanian Government and its people have shown to Syrians. In addition to humanitarian support and access to health care, Syrian refugees in Jordan also have opportunities to work and to study, which is vital for them to live with dignity and purpose and also vital to help ensure that there is not another lost generation of Syrians.
Hosting such a large number of refugees has demanded a lot from Jordan, particularly as the country emerges from COVID-19. But Jordan’s government and people have not turned their backs on refugees from Syria; they have embraced them.
As they continue providing this vital support, so will the United States as reflected in our announcement earlier this week of an additional $756 million in humanitarian assistance for Syrians in need, including those in Jordan.
And Jordan continues to play a key role in promoting regional security and stability. This includes Jordan’s ongoing commitment to continue working for a just, lasting, comprehensive peace between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of a two-state solution along the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps. Jordan’s armed forces have long been a key ally in the fight against violent extremist ideology and terrorism, including as a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, or Daesh. And its military is stepping up to counter new threats like combating narcotics trafficking across the country’s northern border. The unprecedented level of foreign military financing reflected in the MOU will support the modernization of Jordan’s military, which is essential to these and other efforts.
We can make investments like these with confidence because we’re building on more than six decades of close cooperation between our governments, between our peoples, and between our diplomats. An MOU of this breadth takes a lot of work, considerable effort, even among partners. So to our experts and negotiators whose hard work made today’s signing possible, we say thank you – sukran – for what you’ve done together, for all the ways that it will benefit Jordanians, benefit Americans, benefit the region as a whole.
Ayman, the floor is yours.
FOREIGN MINISTER SAFADI: Mr. Secretary – dear Tony – thank you so much. Thank you for your kind words and thank you for the excellent discussion we had today, but most of all thank you for true friendship.
As you said, the MOU we just signed is unprecedented in terms of its duration and the size of financial assistance it entails. It does reflect the strength of our relationship, but we are grateful for the unwavering support that you have continued to provide Jordan. This support, as you said, sir, is key to our efforts to mitigate the heavy impact of regional crises—refugees, border security, drug trafficking, pressure on our scarce resources – and without your help, we will not have been able to do what we did in terms of providing the dignified lives that refugees deserve. They have been victims of conflict; they cannot be a victim of us not doing our bit to help them, so thank you so, so much for all of that.
And the MOU and the EU support is also central to our economic development process as we embark on thorough, wide-ranging reforms that will strengthen the resilience of our economy, improve our – its competitiveness, create jobs, meet our needs for water and energy, and ensure the better future that our people deserve. So we’re really truly thankful, and we truly value the support. And together as friends and partners, we’ll continue to work to realize our joint objective of resolving regional conflicts, ensuring security, stability, peace, cooperation, and prosperity in our region.
And Mr. Secretary whether in our work to restart the Middle East peace process and put it back on track towards achieving comprehensive, just, and lasting peace on the basis of the two-state solution, the only solution that we believe people will accept and embrace or in our efforts to find political solution to tragic crises in Syria, Yemen, Libya, or ensuring the enduring defeat of terrorism, the leading role of the United States is essential. It is simply irreplaceable. These are difficult challenges, and we know we cannot overcome them unless we work together. Jordan will continue to do its part and work with you in full partnership not only to overcome those challenges but also to harness the many opportunities that peace and cooperation in the region promise.
And dear Tony, as His Majesty and King Abdullah just reaffirmed in their meeting in Jeddah, our partnership is strong, it is enduring, it is strategic. It is a partnership that continues to do a lot of good not only for our two countries but also for the region and for global peace. And today is definitely a day to remember in this historic, deep friendship that our countries have enjoyed. And again, as you said, it took a lot of work to achieve, and a big shout out to all our colleagues who have worked so hard to ensure that we get to this great day and to this great moment – and a relationship that continues to be key for us, a relationship that His Majesty views as one of the most key and the most strategic partnership that we have. So a big thank you for this and thank you for, again, your new friendship and for your partnership.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
MR PRICE: We’ll now turn to questions. We’ll start with Elizabeth Hagedorn of Al-Monitor.
QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Blinken, Ukraine has discovered a new mass grave that likely includes hundreds of civilians in a city recaptured from Russian forces in the country’s northeast. The Ukrainians say once again this proves Russia should be labeled a state sponsor of terrorism. Why does the administration oppose that designation despite the kind of war crime discovered this week?
And Foreign Minister Safadi, do you see any hope for a Palestinian state? And how does Jordan view the current escalation and Israel’s actions in the West Bank? Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks, Elizabeth. We’ve seen now the reports of this mass grave. And of course, this is part, horrifically, of the continuing and ongoing story. Whenever we see the Russian tide recede from the parts of Ukraine that it’s occupied, we see what’s left in its wake. And this latest discovery of apparently 440 mass graves in Izyum is a reminder of that.
I was just in Irpin when I was in Ukraine last week, and one of the things that I saw firsthand there – this is a city just a few miles from Kyiv itself – buildings bombed out, shelled, mortared, grenaded, shot at, destroyed – entirely civilian area. And there can be no reason for what occurred there. At best it was indiscriminate; at worst it was intentional.
So two things. One, it’s usually important that even as the Ukrainians do everything they can to take back the land that’s been seized from them by Russia in this aggression that at the same time we’re all working to build the evidence and document the atrocities that have been committed. And in many instances, these will amount to war crimes, which I think is the appropriate frame through which to look at this. That work is going on. There needs to be accountability. And whether it’s through the Ukrainian process itself, whether it’s through mechanisms at the OSCE, the United Nations, the International Criminal Court – all of these things coming together I think will be very important to making sure that those who’ve committed atrocities and those who ordered them are held accountable.
So that I think is the way to move forward, and that’s happening. I talked to people on the ground in Ukraine who are working on documenting the evidence and building the cases for war crimes and the atrocities that have been committed.
I think you know our position on the state sponsorship of terrorism designation. I’d simply say two things. One, all – virtually all of the penalties, sanctions, and pressure that could be exerted through that designation, we’re already doing. So as a practical matter in terms of what it can accomplish, we’re already doing it and it’s having – what we’re doing through sanctions, through export controls, is having a profound effect on Russia, one that’s growing every single day. It’s going to get to be a heavier and heavier burden.
There are problems in the – using this particular vehicle, state sponsorship of terrorism designation, that may have unintended consequences that are not only not helpful, they may even be harmful. We’ve talked about that and spelled it out. But what we are doing is working with Congress right now to see if there is another way forward that achieves what could be achieved through the use of the SST designation without any of the unintended consequences that would make it more counterproductive than productive.
FOREIGN MINISTER SAFADI: Not only will we continue to hope, but we’ll continue to work for the establishment of a sovereign, independent Palestinian state on June 4, 1967 lines to live in peace and security with Israel because if we don’t do that, we’re not going to have the peace that we’ve worked so hard for. The two-state solution remains the only viable option to solve the conflict. We are determined to continue to work again with the U.S., whose leading role is essential, along with other partners to create political horizon and get the parties back to the table so that we can restart meaningful negotiations and achieve the peace that we’ve all worked so hard to achieve.
There are unilateral measures that are undermining the viability of the two-state solution, and our position is very clear. We urge Israel to stop all unilateral measures that undermine the two-state solution in terms of settlements, confiscation of land, or encroachment on al-Aqsa, and it is in the interest of all of us to be able to do that because we want to preserve the chances for peace. And nobody is doing anybody a favor by opting for peace. Peace is right for all peoples of the region – Palestinians, Israelis, Jordanians, and everybody else.
So we recognize how difficult the situation is right now, but we cannot throw in the white towel. We’ve got to keep working at it. We’ve got to continue to work for horizon and again, in partnership with our friends in the United States and our brethrens and other partners of the world, we continue to work for that and we’ll hope for better times when Israelis and Palestinians come together in peace and start a new era of cooperation in the region.
MR PRICE: Tareq Alass, Mamlakeh TV.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. I’m going to ask my question in Arabic, please.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: One second.
QUESTION: Yes, of course. (Via interpreter) Mr. Secretary, you talked about the firmness of the relationships between Jordan and the United States. What are the horizons of the bilateral cooperation in the future between the two countries, and what are the fields that you work to reinforce bilaterally with Jordan and also regionally?
And also Mr. Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi, what are Jordan’s and United States’ priorities in the region? Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much. A few things. First, I think it’s very important to remember that this is a friendship that’s endured for more than six decades, and throughout that time we’ve built ties, connections, binds between our governments, but also and especially between our people. And that’s an incredibly strong foundation.
The MOU today only strengthens that foundation and will allow us to do even more together. The MOU and the different areas of focus really go to a number of things where I see us working together even more closely in the years ahead. Some of this, of course, is the work that the United States and Jordan have been doing for years regionally to try to advance peace, to try to advance stability, to try to advance prosperity. And there couldn’t be two closer partners in that effort.
But also – and the MOU sets this out and so does – so do discussions we have on a regular basis – we’re working on many of the issues that have the biggest impact on the lives of our people in trying to improve those lives: trying to create greater economic opportunity, jobs throughout the entire society; making sure that when it comes to vital resources that people need, including water, energy, that all of these things we’re working to build access to together. We’ll be working on everything from dealing with the effects of climate change to global health. So the agenda is in many ways global, but the impact, we hope, in the work that we’re doing together is going to be profoundly felt in Jordan, the United States, and in the region as a whole.
There are a whole series of other regional challenges where we’re working together, but I think a lot of the focus is on making sure that together we’re looking at ways to concretely improve the lives of people in our countries. That’s our fundamental responsibility, and there’s much that we can do, we are doing, and we’ll do even more of as a result of the MOU to do just that.
FOREIGN MINISTER SAFADI: If I may answer —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Please.
FOREIGN MINISTER SAFADI: — in Arabic.
(Via interpreter) As His Excellency the Secretary said, our friendship with United States is a historical one. Our partnership is firm, it’s fruitful, and continuous. And signing this MOU today, an MOU that is the longest and largest since we started signing MOUs, is an indicator, a clear and practical indicator of the firmness of this relationship and this friendship. And we highly appreciate the support of the United States continues to offer the kingdom and which will greatly help us expand the economic and administrative reform programs that you know of, and it will also help us to deal with the ramifications of the economic conditions that affect our resources.
So our priority is clear. We work together bilaterally on pushing development. And as His Excellency said, there is great American support for our development projects in the fields of water, energy, finding employment opportunities, providing the economic environment to have a better future that our people deserve. And the support that this MOU contains is approximately $1.5 billion for every year for seven years, and that happens at a time when we take serious reforms, and they’ll have a great role to play in this.
Our regional priority, which we both commit to, is to bring peace, security, and stability in our region. Our region has more than its share of crises, and we work together to bring back peace and the political process to its proper path and achieve a comprehensive solution on the basis of the two countries to solve the crisis in Syria, Yemen, Libya, and achieve the development that gives us the ability to respond to the needs of our peoples in an honorable, dignified life, productive life.
And again, His Majesty the King and President Biden more than once affirmed the important centrality of this relationship, and we commit to work with our friends in the United States, and we thank our friends in the United States for all the support that they offer us.
MR PRICE: Shannon Crawford, ABC.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Secretary Blinken, two questions. Recently we’ve seen the leaders of China and India express their concern about the war in Ukraine directly to Vladimir Putin. Do you see this as a significant shift for Russia on the international stage?
And second, family members of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner are meeting at the White House. Now, it’s been more than 50 days since you put forward that substantial proposal for their freedom, but so far it hasn’t been a successful proposal. Now, has Russia given you a serious counteroffer? And given your priorities at this department, when will you do more or will you do more than urge Russia to take the deal that’s already on the table?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. With regard to the first part of your question, I think what you’re hearing from China, from India, is reflective of concerns around the world about the effects of Russia’s aggression on Ukraine – not just on the people of Ukraine, devastating as that’s been, but on countries and people across the entire planet. It’s an aggression not just against Ukraine and its people, it’s an aggression against the very principles of international relations that help keep peace and security.
The United Nations Charter – we’re about to head off to the United Nations for High-Level Week; the charter should be front and center. The number one violator of the charter right now is Russia. So there are real concerns that, I think, are being heard from countries around the world about that, and, of course, all of the impacts that this is having, including, for example, on food insecurity. We’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of focus in recent months in trying to address the challenges to food security that have been exacerbated dramatically by Russia’s aggression. We already had COVID, we already had climate change that were having profound effects on food insecurity. Add to that conflict, we now have well over 200 million people who are severely food insecure.
This is something that leaders in countries around the world are feeling, because their people are feeling it. And so I think what you’re seeing is just a manifestation of the fact that this aggression has been an aggression against the interests of people across the planet, and I think it increases the pressure on Russia to end the aggression.
When it comes to Brittney Griner, Paul Whelan, a few things. First, we – the President, the State Department, this institution, myself, other parts of our government – are working every single day to try to bring Americans who are being arbitrarily detained or unjustly held anywhere in the world, to bring them home, to bring them to freedom. That applies to Brittney and Paul certainly as well. Securing their release, securing the release of any American who’s being arbitrarily detained is at the very top of my priority list. And as you said, we have put forward a substantial proposal to Russia. I’m not going to get into the details or the back and forth in public; I don’t think that serves the interests of getting to an agreement.
But suffice to say we are working on it every day, and just because we don’t say something or you don’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not happening. So we are working on it, and as you noted, the President has the opportunity to see both families today.
Let me add, too, that any country that is engaging in wrongful detention is a threat to the safety of everyone traveling, working, and living abroad. And I think, among other things, it’s going to have a profoundly chilling effect on people anywhere being interested or willing to travel to those countries. That’s something that they need to take account of. And as I’ve also discussed before – and more to follow – we are looking at additional steps to take to make it clear that countries that engage in these practices will pay a real price.
MR PRICE: Final question goes to Hussain al-Adwan, Jordan Radio and Television.
QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. Blinken, I need ask in Arabic.
(Via interpreter) Mr. Blinken, at the time that we face regional crises, most of which is refugeeism, is there bilateral cooperation to confront this challenge?
Your Excellency, DPM Safadi, is the support that the United States is offering – giving to Jordan sufficient to face the refugeeism – refugees crisis? Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: (Inaudible), would you mind repeating the part – because I didn’t quite hear the – the beginning of it.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) At the time that we face regional crises in the region, Jordan and the United States are two solid partners. Is their cooperation between two sides to deal with the refugees crisis in the region?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much; thank you for repeating it. In short, yes, absolutely. First, I want to come back to something I said. Jordan has demonstrated remarkable generosity and remarkable leadership by welcoming so many refugees, hundreds of thousands, since the start of the war in Syria. But not just welcoming them; also offering them the possibility of going to school, going to work, earning a livelihood, and this is quite extraordinary and remarkable. I’ve seen it firsthand on visits to Jordan, and I think countries around the world should be inspired by Jordan’s example. Because, just to take a step back for one minute, we now have more people on the move around the world displaced from their homes – more than 100 million – than at any time in recorded history. And among them, of course, are many refugees.
So this is a responsibility. It’s a global challenge; it’s a global responsibility. Jordan has stepped up in a very significant way to that responsibility. And yes, we’re proud to be a partner in that effort. Since the war in Syria started, we the United States have provided about 15 and a half billion dollars in humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, including refugees. More than 2 billion of that has gone to Jordan to assist Jordan in the work that it’s doing to support these refugees. This year alone we announced more than $1.5 billion, including more than $750 million this week, to help Syrians, including those who are in Jordan.
Like Jordan, we’re also committed to finding an end to the conflict. We want to make sure that work is being done to try to advance a political settlement in Syria that’s consistent with Security Council Resolution 2254. At the same time, we’re working more broadly to try to expand humanitarian access in Syria so that people who are there can be helped. Of course, we’re working to keep the pressure on ISIS, on Daesh to sustain some of the local ceasefires that have taken shape, even as we remain committed to ensuring that there’s accountability and respect for international law, given the grievous violations of international law and atrocities that have been committed over so many years in Syria. But all of these things together go to the work that we’re doing in partnership to help Jordan as it helps so many people.
FOREIGN MINISTER SAFADI: Thank you. The short answer is that the United States has gone above and beyond in terms of helping us cope with the challenge of refugees. As the Secretary just said, a tremendous amount of money was sent to help us meet the needs of refugees not just in Jordan, but wherever they are in the region and beyond. But meeting the needs of refugees cannot be the responsibility of the U.S. and Jordan alone. This is a global responsibility; it’s a global challenge. All of us need to come together to ensure that refugees get the dignified lives that that they deserve. The U.S. is doing its part; we in Jordan are doing our part. A lot of our partners are contributing, but I must say that this is a time where we see dwindling amount of support for refugees. And I think all of us need to come together to make sure that refugees and host countries get the resources they need to offer refugees education, health services, and a hope for the future.
I was just telling my dear friend here that 50 percent of Syrians, of the 1.3 million Syrians in Jordan, are under the age of 15. They need schools, they need universities, they need jobs. And that problem is still there, and we must do everything we can to provide those refugees with the lives they deserve, because the fact is if we provide refugees with hope, with education, with jobs, with a shot at decent lives, they’ll be a – positive members of the societies in which they are now, and they’ll be the force that will be able to build their countries in the future. But if we abandon them to hate and despair and ignorance, then we’re all looking at a very gloomy future for them and for the region. So that support needs to continue to come in.
And as the Secretary said, we also have to work on a political solution to this crisis. It’s gone on for far too long, caused too much suffering, too much pain, and 2254 is a benchmark against which we all need to work towards realizing an end to this crisis and find a solution that will allow people to go back to their country voluntarily and resume the building of (inaudible).
MR PRICE: That concludes the press conference. Thank you, Your excellencies.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER SAFADI: Thank you.