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Sat 25 May 2013 05:09 PM

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Jordan's king makes new plea to solve Syrian crisis

Tens of thousands of refugees have fled from Syria to Jordan as civil war continues

Jordan's king makes new plea to solve Syrian crisis
Jordans King Abdullah II. (AFP/Getty Images)

Jordan's King Abdullah II has privately asked the US to intervene in the Syrian conflict and help bring to an end that country’s war and the flow of refugees into the kingdom.

Tens of thousands of refugees have flooded into Jordan since the unrest broke out two years ago, placing enormous strain on the country’s limited resources, which already are being shared with countless displaced Palestinians.

The number of Syrian refugees in Jordan is now as many as 10 percent of the total Jordanian population.

“A political solution is urgently needed to stop [Syria’s]dangerous fragmentation and to resolve the dire refugee crisis,” the King said during his opening speech at the World Economic Forum.

“Jordanians are generously sharing scare water and other resources. Increased humanitarian assistance from the global community is vital.

“But what ultimately is needed is an immediate end to the violence so all the Syrian people can rebuild their country.”

King Abdullah II met with US Senator John McCain and Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to plead for additional help on Saturday.

Following the meeting, the US senators told a media conference additional support would be given to Jordan and Lebanon to help cope with the influx of refugees, while other measures also were considered to bring down the Syrian leader Bashar Al Assad.

“Clearly Jordan has faced an overwhelming burden … we recognise that,” Senator Menendez said.

“We want to be helpful. We hope that other countries would be helpful as well - particularly our fellow Arab countries - with humanitarian assistance. We hope that they would be engaged, as well.”

Senator McCain said the “severe humanitarian” crisis in Jordan put “an enormous strain” on the country’s government, people and economy.

“We’re very grateful to Jordan,” he said. “It’s a small country that has borne a very, very heavy burden, as has Lebanon, as has Turkey, and this carnage and massacre that’s going on in Syria must be brought to a halt.”

Senator McCain said any international instruments to encourage a peaceful transition, such as the proposed Geneva II, would not be successful unless Assad believed he could not win the armed fight.

“I have a large degree of cynicism about the possibility of success [with Geneva II] unless Bashar Al Assad is convinced that the blood field situation will not be in his favour,” Senator McCain said.

“In other words, if he believes he can survive I believe he won’t seriously negotiate.

“That’s why there needs to be some teeth that if he fails to [participate in an] orderly transition that the penalties will be severe.”

Senator Menendez said the US was now seriously considering a no-fly zone, other economic sanctions and arming the opposition rebels.

“We believe that Assad’s regime’s behaviour, whether it be the use of chemical weapons or in the wholesale slaughter of civilians, has crossed a line that forces us to consider all options,” he said.

“There are vital national interests to the US in Syria; obviously large nuclear weapons stock piles could fall into the hands of those who not only could use it against the Syrian people but could use it more broadly and in fact it could fall into the hands of terrorist organisations. We have the potential for the Syrian state to collapse, which could lead to a safe haven for terrorists, constituting a new threat to the region, with broader consequences for our own security.”

However, the US will require cooperation with other countries such as Russia, which supports Assad’s regime.

About 180,000 people are estimated to have died and 1.5m to have been displaced during the civil conflict.