WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, after meeting with Jordan's foreign minister in Washington Wednesday, said they discussed the "challenge of Syria."
Kerry said he and Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh "talked about the obvious challenge of Syria. And this is of particular significance to Jordan because they have somewhere in the vicinity of 330,000 -- perhaps more -- refugees. We are currently engaged in a humanitarian effort directed at some 250,000 of them, with approximately $52 million or so from the American people, in an effort to address this humanitarian challenge. So it is going to grow, not get smaller, as this conflict continues. And it underscores the importance of the global community holding President Assad accountable for what he and his regime are doing to the people of Syria and to the region, and we remain committed with respect to that issue."
Kerry said the administration wants a peaceful settlement in Syria if possible.
"This is going to be critical to Jordanians going forward," Kerry said. "And so their borders are particularly under siege. I think they had as many as 3,000, several thousand, 2,000 to 3,000 people a night over the last weeks crossing over. That's a challenge."
"We have been at the receiving end of the humanitarian spillover of the ongoing crisis in Syria with over 360,000 Syrians on Jordanian soil, and this is only since the crisis began in March 2011," Judeh said. "As the secretary pointed out, about 90,000 happen to be in camps, but the rest are in Jordanian towns, villages, living in Jordanian homes. And while we have taken the political decision at [King Abdullah's] directives to keep our borders open to receive those Syrian brothers and sisters who are escaping these harsh and horrific realities on the ground, it does not come without a toll on our already drained and burdened economy."
Kerry said he and Judeh had a longstanding personal relationship, and had ridden motorcycles together along the Dead Sea.
Kerry was sworn in Feb. 1 as secretary of state to succeed Hillary Clinton, after being confirmed by the Senate Jan. 29.