Jordan's king said in comments published Monday that the US administration seems to be focusing more of its attention on Iran and less on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying time was running out to make peace.
In an interview with Italian daily La Repubblica, King Abdullah II said the region's hopes for peace were huge at the start of the Obama administration, but now sees the "goal getting farther away."
"I've heard people in Washington talking about Iran, again Iran, always Iran," Abdullah was quoted as saying. "But I insist on, and keep insisting on the Palestinian question: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the most serious threat to the stability of the region and the Mediterranean."
Abdullah granted the interview on the eve of a visit to Italy starting Monday.
He said the two sides have a window of opportunity over the next year to make progress on creating a two-state solution, after which point the possibility of a Palestinian state will disappear as more Arab land gets swallowed up by Jewish settlements.
"The window of opportunity will soon close," he was quoted as saying. "By the end of 2010, if Israel doesn't believe in the two-state solution, the possibility of a future Palestinian state will disappear because of geographic reasons: already the land is fragmented into cantons."
He urged Washington and the EU to put pressure on Israel to sit down with the Palestinians to negotiate peace, even though he remains suspicious of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and somewhat disillusioned with the US effort to date.
"I'll be sincere; I had expected more, sooner," he said of the US efforts and the seven missions already conducted by the US envoy George Mitchell.
"I believed in a decisive turn at the beginning of the summer, ahead of a true peace negotiation at the United Nations," he said. "But the question of Israeli settlements - which are illegal according to the international community - remains central."
Obama began his term in office with a Mideast peace push that included an unequivocal call for Israel to halt settlement activity in the West Bank. Though Netanyahu agreed in principle to the formation of a Palestinian state and said he would limit settlement construction for a limited time, he refused to agree to a full halt.
The White House recently appears to have softened its position, saying it was time for the sides to start talking again even if settlement work continues.