US government reaffirms support for Jordan's King Abdullah

Relations and military co-operation have improved significantly since tenure of former US president Donald Trump

A handout picture released by the Jordanian Royal Palace on March 23, 2021 shows Jordanian King Abdullah II speaking during a meeting with the speaker and heads of a number of committees at the House of Representatives in the capital Amman.  - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / JORDANIAN ROYAL PALACE / YOUSEF ALLAN" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
 / AFP / Jordanian Royal Palace / - / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / JORDANIAN ROYAL PALACE / YOUSEF ALLAN" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

The administration of US President Joe Biden on Sunday reaffirmed its support for Jordan’s King Abdullah II, a close ally of Washington.

A US State Department official said Washington remained in touch with Amman and was continuing to monitor the situation after the arrests at the weekend of a junior member of the royal family and a former adviser to the royal court.

“King Abdullah is a key partner of the United States, and he has our full support,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

US experts saw far-reaching support for the kingdom in Washington, especially given Mr Biden’s long-standing relationship with King Abdullah.

Mr Biden’s first call to the region after his election victory in November was to the king.

The two have known each other since before King Abdullah ascended the throne in 1999.

Curtis Ryan, a US academic and author on Jordan, said the king could count on “broad bipartisan support” in Washington.

“The US and other allies have publicly rallied around the monarchy," Mr Ryan said.

Relations between the US and Jordan have improved under Mr Biden after a tense four years between the monarchy and the administration of Donald Trump.

Mr Biden is restoring aid to the UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, and has recommitted the US to the two-state solution and to helping Jordan with the refugee crisis.

The US government authorised military sales to the kingdom including F-16 fighter jets in February, and last month signed a new defence agreement with Jordan allowing US forces to carry weapons while stationed there.

The US and Jordan have increased defence cooperation, and Washington in February authorised the sale of F-16 fighter jets to the Kingdom. Getty Images

The defence agreement also allows US military aircraft, ships and personnel to enter Jordanian territory freely.

"The recent military agreement, as controversial as it is within Jordan, underscored how close relations actually are at least at a state to state level, and especially in military, security and intelligence co-operation," Mr Ryan said.

The agreement, which Jordan’s Parliament ratified in March, “reinforces US support for defence programmes and the kingdom's security and stability through military training and equipment", Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al Safadi said then.

The US is also Jordan's single largest provider of bilateral assistance since the signing of the peace treaty with Israel in 1994, providing more than $1.5 billion in 2020, including $425 million in military assistance.

Ben Fishman, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former White House official who worked on Jordan, said the king had been counting on “recouping losses in US-Jordan relations under the new Biden administration”.

Early signals from the White House “looked promising", Mr Fishman said.

The relationship between the US and Jordan, he said, was based on maintaining stability in the region.

King Abdullah’s help in pursuing this goal for more than two decades has won him broad support in Washington.

“We have long-standing interests in Jordan as a stable partner to help combat extremism in the region and promote peace,” Mr Fishman said.

“That’s why the king has earned broad bipartisan support throughout his 20-plus years on the throne.”

Mr Biden spoke on Wednesday with King Abdullah to express strong US support for Jordan and underscore the importance of his leadership in the region, a readout of the call said.

The two leaders discussed the strong bilateral ties between Jordan and the US, Jordan’s important role in the region and strengthening bilateral co-operation on multiple political, economic and security issues.

Mr Biden also affirmed that the US supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.