Obama to host four Middle Eastern leaders amid Syrian strife

President Obama will host four Middle Eastern leaders in April and May amid worsening violence in Syria, the White House announced. 

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The visits by the leaders of Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates come as more than 70,000 have been killed and one million refugees have fled a two-year civil war with no end in sight. 

Pressure is growing from Congress and foreign leaders for the president to take more forceful action, including arming vetted rebels and protecting rebel-controlled zones from Syrian government air and land attacks.

Obama will first host Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the deputy supreme commander of the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates, on April 16. The Amir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, will follow suit April 23, followed by King Abdullah II of Jordan on April 26.

"The president deeply appreciated the hospitality he received in Jordan last month and looks forward to continuing his consultations with King Abdullah on Jordan’s political and economic reforms, the humanitarian crisis in Syria, and additional regional issues of mutual concern," the White House said. 

"As the president said in Amman last month, Jordan is an invaluable ally and close friend. King Abdullah's visit is a demonstration of the close partnership between the United States and Jordan."

The White House also confirmed that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would be paying Obama a visit on May 16. That meeting comes amid worries that Turkey is backsliding on commitments to improve relations with Israel following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's apology for the killing of nine Turks that Obama hailed as a diplomatic coup during his visit to Israel last month.

"The Prime Minister’s visit underscores the close friendship between the United States and Turkey and the strategic importance we place on broadening and strengthening our relationship moving forward," the White House said.

Qatar and Turkey have taken a lead role in arming the rebels seeking to topple Bashar Assad in Syria. And U.S. forces are reportedly helping Jordan train Syrian opposition forces with an eye to establishing a buffer zone along the country's southern border.