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Donald Trump Says There's 'Lots of Progress in the Middle East' As Syria's Ceasefire Falls Apart

During a meeting in Washington with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Monday, President Donald Trump announced that a "lot of progress is being made in the Middle East." He also said that things had gotten “a lot different” since the administration pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in May.

It is unclear exactly what progress the president was referring to, since the comments were made just one day after Russia carried out airstrikes in southwest Syria, breaking a ceasefire agreement Moscow made with the U.S. and Jordan last year. The increased fighting has thrown the region into further chaos.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is attempting to drive rebels out of Syria’s Daraa province, which is located close to Syria’s border with Jordan. U.S. officials had warned Assad against breaking the ceasefire, but now Russia and the Syrian regime have both started bombing and shelling the area. Meanwhile, experts say the Trump administration’s policies have failed to increase regional security.

“I would find it difficult to agree with Trump's assessment that his administration is making progress in the region,” Harrison Akins, a Middle East expert at the Howard Baker Center, told Newsweek.

“In regards to geopolitics in the region, the Trump administration's policies, driven by domestic politics, have emboldened the Israeli right, making it more difficult to secure any progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and led to increased tensions with Iran over withdrawing from the nuclear deal despite international consensus that Iran was living up to the agreement,” Akins added. 

Trump failed to mention the crisis in Syria during his joint press conference with King Abdullah. The conflict in Syria is of particular concern to Jordan, who has taken in around 1.4 million Syrian refugees. As Russia and the Syrian regime began their bombing campaign, the government in Jordan announced that it would not take in any more refugees from Syria. Around 17,000 people are estimated to have fled their homes following the most recent attacks.

Amnesty International called on Jordan’s government not to abandon the refugees when they are most in need.

“People fleeing war in Syria are in a desperate life-or-death situation, and the Jordanian government cannot simply abandon them,” Mouna Elkekhia, Amnesty International’s advisor on refugee and migrant rights, said in a statement.  “Jordan has a duty to protect refugees from Syria fleeing conflict and persecution, and to allow them to enter the country. Closing the border to people in need of protection violates Jordan’s international obligations."

On Monday, Trump praised Jordan’s treatment of Syrian refugees. The comments were made as the Trump administration is adopting draconian measures toward refugees and asylum seekers.

“You have done an incredible job on the refugees and the camps and taking care of people…. the job you do on a humanitarian basis is fantastic. And I would like to thank you very much,” Trump told Jordan’s King.

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