AMMAN, Jordan – Jordan will get a cheap $100 million loan to help create 100,000 jobs for Syrian refugees and its own citizens, the World Bank president said Sunday.
The long-term loan, almost interest free, is part of an attempt by the international community to improve conditions for refugees in overburdened regional host countries, including Jordan and Lebanon.
More than 4.8 million Syrians have fled their country since the start of the Syria conflict in 2011. Jordan hosts about 640,000 registered Syrian refugees and Lebanon more than 1 million.
Cheap loans by the World Bank and other donors are among the new tools meant to help finance education and job creation for refugees in the region. Such support is also meant to slow the migration of refugees to Europe.
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World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have been visiting the region since last week, first stopping in Lebanon.
Kim announced the $100 million loan for job creation in Jordan on Sunday, after Lebanon was also awarded $100 million to ensure universal school enrolment for Lebanese and Syrian refugee children by 2017.
The bank president said the money for Jordan and Lebanon – both middle income countries – is from a special fund normally reserved for the poorest countries.
“We are taking money from that fund and giving it to a middle income country because Jordan has taken such extraordinary measures” in hosting refugees, he said.
Kim did not say how soon the 100,000 jobs could be created and how many of them would go to refugees.
Jordan has set aside special economic zones where it hopes improved trade arrangements with Europe will lead to greater investment and eventually more jobs. However, the trade arrangements have not yet been worked out, and the entire job creation scheme is expected to take several years.
The idea of concessional loans was part of a package of support for refugees and their hosts announced at a Syria aid conference last month.
Eventually, the World Bank and other donors hope to offer $3 billion to $4 billion in cheap loans to refugee host countries, with international donors buying down interest.
Earlier Sunday, Ban held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman. The meeting had not been announced previously.
Ban said he is concerned that “we cannot give any hope to these people, the Palestinian people” because of long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and ongoing violence.
Last week, video footage released by an Israeli rights group showed an Israeli soldier lethally shooting a Palestinian attacker who had already been shot and subdued. The incident fueled long-running complaints that Israeli forces are at times using excessive force in responding to Palestinian attacks.
The shooting came amid six months of Palestinian stabbings and other attacks that killed 28 Israelis and two Americans. In this time, at least 188 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire. Israel says most were attackers, and the rest died in clashes with Israeli security forces.
Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have not held meaningful peace talks since Netanyahu took office in 2009. Gaps remain wide between them on the terms of Palestinian statehood.
Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdeneh said the Palestinian leader told Ban on Sunday that it’s important to convene an international conference to revive peace talks. It’s a French idea backed by the Palestinians.