AMMAN -- The United States and Jordan on Sunday (November 27) signed the annual US grant agreement to support Jordan's budget, which this year amounts to $845.1 million, officials in Amman said.
The agreement was signed between Jordan's Ministry of Planning and International Co-operation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh was present at the signing ceremony in Amman, along with Minister of Planning and International Co-operation Zeina Toukan and USAID official Margaret Spears, a government statement said.
The aid comes as part of the US economic assistance programme to the Jordanian government, within the third memorandum of understanding signed by the two sides for 2018-2022, the Jordanian news agency, Petra, reported.
"This transfer of $845.1 million to the government of Jordan signifies the continuing US commitment to our partnership, which spans over seven decades," US Ambassador to Jordan Henry Wooster said after the signing.
The transfer of funds is the last one under the 2018 agreement, he noted, which, "when combined with the new MoU signed by our governments in September, equates to the largest US economic assistance programme in the world".
"The magnitude and length of the agreement reflects the strategic importance of this relationship to the United States," Wooster said.
The Hashemite kingdom is a key Western ally in the Middle East.
"Jordan is very grateful for the support, which demonstrates that the United States understands the challenges" the country faces, al-Khasawneh said.
The funds will go towards "financing development projects and implementing economic reforms in different sectors", Toukan said.
Commitment to Jordan's security
In September, the United States committed to providing Jordan with $10.15 billion in aid between 2023 and 2029, reaffirming the "ironclad" strategic partnership between the two nations.
The kingdom described the agreement, which provides it with $1.45 billion per year in foreign assistance, as "unprecedented in terms of its duration and the size of financial assistance it entails".
The agreement, described as "one of the most significant bilateral instruments of its kind", covers a longer period and provides more assistance than any prior agreement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said following the signing.
"The US commitment to Jordan's security and prosperity is ironclad," the US State Department said in a statement.
The kingdom continues to play a key role in promoting regional security and stability, Blinken said, noting that the "unprecedented level of foreign military financing" will support the modernisation of Jordan's military.
"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 the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' (ISIS)," he said.
Additionally, he said, Jordanian forces are "stepping up to counter new threats like combating narcotics trafficking across the country's northern border".
The agreement also will address the extraordinary challenges Jordan faces, amid the heavy impact of regional challenges and as it pursues economic reforms, it said, and "ensures the long-term strength of the close partnership".
The United States has pledged to help Jordan tackle issues such as water scarcity, the statement said, and will foster co-operation and investment in infrastructure, energy, food security and climate.
It sees the funds as "facilitating much-needed regional integration", it added.
Cleaning up the Jordan River
At the recent UN climate meeting in Egypt, Jordan and Israel agreed to clean up the polluted Jordan river, an essential waterway suffering under decades of pollution and drought, AFP reported.
The agreement, inked November 17 at the COP27, stresses the need to rehabilitate the river system which has lost roughly half of its biodiversity.
Jordan's Minister of Water and Irrigation Mohammed al-Najjar voiced hope the accord would improve livelihoods and provide "more water for residents on both banks of the Jordan River", according to Petra.
Jordan is one of the world's most water-deficient countries, suffering from extreme droughts, and water co-operation with Israel long pre-dates the 1994 peace deal between them.
EcoPeace Middle East, which works to promote environmental co-operation between Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians, praised the deal, saying "Jordan River rehabilitation is a critical climate adaptation".
A cleaned up river can offer jobs in tourism and boost opportunities to host pilgrimages as the river is "holy to half of humanity", an EcoPeace statement said.
Jordan has few natural resources and only one port, Aqaba, on the Red Sea.
The World Bank says the kingdom is heavily in debt and faces around 23% unemployment.
Some 675,000 refugees from neighbouring Syria are registered with the United Nations in Jordan. Amman estimates the real figure to be about twice that, and says the cost of hosting them has exceeded $12 billion.