This coincides with concern over Saturday’s confrontation in Syria between Israel and “Iranian assets”. After an Israeli F-16 jet bombed a site used by Iran-backed position in Syria, Syrian air defenses shot it down.
Ali Akbar Velayati, top aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader, quickly responded to the US official, saying that “Iran’s military presence in Syria was based on invitation” of the Syrian regime. ISNA quoted Velayati as saying, “Those should leave Syria who are there without the permission.”
Tillerson called the US administration’s work on a new Middle East peace plan”fairly well advanced” and said that President Trump will decide when to announce it. Tillerson said the peace plan, “I have seen the plan… It’s been under development for a number of months. I have consulted with them on the plan, identified areas that we feel need further work. So I think it will be up to the president to decide when he feels it’s time and he’s ready to put that plan forward. I will say it’s fairly well advanced…”
Despite Trump’s threat to withhold support from states opposed to his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Tillerson also signed a five-year aid package that extends US support to Jordan, a key regional ally.
Trump reversed decades of US policy last December, when he declared that Jerusalem would be recognized as Israel’s capital, and set in motion the process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv. This triggered outrage in the Arab and Muslim world, and led Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to declare that he would not cooperate with the United States as a mediator.
After a UN resolution calling for Washington to reverse its Jerusalem decision, Trump threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that backed the resolution. Jordan backed it, because King Abdullah’s Hashemite dynasty is the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, which makes Amman particularly sensitive to any changes of status.
The non-binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) for $6.375 billion in aid starting this year was signed by Tillerson and Safadi. The previous such MoU between Jordan and the United States was for three years.
A statement by the US State Department said, “This MoU commitment highlights the pivotal role Jordan plays in helping foster and safeguard regional stability and supports US objectives such as the global campaign to defeat ISIS, counter-terrorism cooperation, and economic development.”
Tillerson also met in Amman with a delegation from the Syrian High Negotiations Committee (HNC) headed by Nasr al-Hariri. After the closed-door talks that the HNC had held with the US official, Hariri tweeted that it was an “important meeting” and added that the delegation had stressed the need try war criminals and hold the regime accountable for chemical weapons attacks.