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Jordans King Abdullah, Cohen Discuss Mideast Violence

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

AMMAN, Jordan, Nov. 22, 2000 – Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Jordan’s King Abdullah met Nov. 21 and held discussions about the violence between Palestinians and Israelis, which, according to Cohen, could jeopardize peace and stability throughout the Middle East.

During his meetings, Cohen noted that a wide range of issues was discussed, but Palestinian-Israeli conflict was paramount. “We concentrated on the need to end the violence between Israel and the Palestinians,” Cohen said in a statement released after his meeting with Abdullah. “It is time to stop the fighting and return to the bargaining table.

“We will continue to work together to promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the region,” he added.

Cohen said the United States intends to provide Jordan $75 million in foreign military financing for the upcoming year, in return for the positive role Jordan is playing in building greater cooperation among the militaries in the Mideast. Egypt and Israel are also slated to receive U.S. financial assistance -- $225 million and $450 million, respectively -- for their efforts in promoting peace in the Mideast, officials said.

The United States enjoys “an extremely strong relationship with King Abdullah and Jordan,” said Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon, who accompanied Cohen on this tour.

That relationship, Bacon said, is based on three pillars. First, Jordan plays an active and fundamental role in promoting Mideast peace. Bacon noted President Clinton has remarked that “King Abdullah is a voice of reason and calm in a region that needs both.”

Second, the United States has been working with King Abdullah to help him address Jordan’s economic problems in order to enhance stability, Bacon said. About 25 percent of Jordan’s population are unemployed, and about 60 percent of its residents are Palestinians. Jordan has few natural resources, and no oil, unlike its richer neighbors Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq. Discussions were held to find ways to attract high-tech, Internet companies to come to Jordan.

Third, Jordan is important because it has a very internationalist approach to its role in the world, Bacon noted. Jordan, he said, has sent peacekeepers to Sierra Leone, East Timor and Kosovo. Under King Abdullah, who replaced his father, the late King Hussein, Jordan has reached out to improve relations with Gulf States, participating in military exercises with Kuwait and Bahrain.

Bacon said although Jordan had sided with Iraq during the Gulf War, King Hussein reversed course after the war, and his son Abdullah has worked hard to strengthen Jordan’s relationships with the Gulf nations. With such a large Palestinian population and the fact that Israel also borders it, Jordan is probably as concerned as any country in wanting to end Israeli and Palestinian bloodshed.

In short, said Bacon, Jordan is an important player in the Mideast and seeks ways to establish peace, stability, and prosperity throughout the region, rather than promoting conflict.

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