A senior German official says his country proposes creating half a million short-term jobs to help Syrian refugees survive in their overburdened Middle Eastern host countries.

Gerd Mueller, minister for economic cooperation, told The Associated Press during a Jordan visit Tuesday that the idea will be raised at next week's Syria aid conference, to be held in London.

Germany could initially contribute 200 million euros ($217 million) to a cash-for-work program.

Mueller says he believes most refugees want to stay close to Syria. He says investing in the region is "20 times more effective" than spending money to help refugees once they've reached Europe.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have traveled to Europe, many to Germany, because cuts in international aid created increasingly dire conditions in regional host countries.