Jordan’s King Abdullah paid a brief visit Monday to Ramallah, where he held talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on a number of issues concerning the Middle East peace process and efforts to achieve unity between Fatah and Hamas.
The king’s visit came ahead of a planned tour to the US and some EU capitals.
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PA and Jordanian officials said Abdullah also briefed Abbas on the recent rapprochement between the kingdom and Hamas, whose leader, Khaled Mashaal, is expected to visit Amman in the coming weeks.
The monarch expressed support for Palestinian unity and efforts to achieve reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, the officials said after the talks.
The Hamas-Fatah reconciliation issue was also on the agenda when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met Monday with US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns.
Burns met with Abbas a day earlier, amid reports that the US sent the Palestinians a strong message opposed to the Fatah-Hamas rapprochement unless Hamas accepted the conditions set down by the international community: that it reject terrorism, accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements and recognize Israel.
Netanyahu convened the inner cabinet of eight ministers late Sunday night to discuss the scheduled meeting in Cairo later this week between Abbas and Mashaal, and the possible Israeli response if a Palestinian national unity agreement is agreed upon.
While no details of what measures the ministers discussed emerged from that meeting, one government official said the decision from the beginning of the month to hold up the transfer of $100 million in tax revenue collected for the PA was not changed.
That decision was taken after the Palestinians gained entrance into UNESCO.
Netanyahu has made clear in the past that if a Palestinian national unity government was established without Hamas accepting the three conditions, it would put an end to efforts to restart negotiations with the PA.
Abdullah, meanwhile, also voiced support in Ramallah for the PA’s latest diplomatic efforts in the international arena, first and foremost the application for membership in the UN.
“Jordan fully supports the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to establish an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital,” the official Jordanian news agency, Petra, quoted Abdullah as telling the PA president.
The agency said Abdullah also warned that continued Israeli construction in the settlements undermines the peace process and does not help in building confidence between Israelis and Palestinians.
Abbas told reporters after the meeting there were still no signs indicating the peace process would be revived soon.
Abbas reiterated his demand Israel halt all settlement construction and recognize the pre-1967 lines as a pre-condition for the resumption of peace talks.
“These are not pre-conditions, but commitments and agreements between us and the Israelis,” he said. “When [the Israelis] accept them, we would be ready [to return to the talks].”
Asked whether he was concerned about the rapprochement between Jordan and Hamas, Abbas said: “Jordan is a sovereign kingdom and has its own rights. We are with the kingdom in what it sees fit for itself. We fully support anything that is in Jordan’s interest.”
Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, who flew with the king by helicopter from Amman to Ramallah, described the visit as “very important and historic.” Judeh said the PA president briefed Abdullah on the Palestinian statehood bid and efforts by the Quartet to persuade the two sides to return to the negotiating table.
Judeh said the kingdom had a “higher interest” in seeing the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. He said the visit to Ramallah also came in response to some voices in Israel that have been talking about Jordan as the future Palestinian state.
“Our position is clear,” the Jordanian minister said. “The Palestinian state will be established on Palestinian national soil with Jerusalem as its capital. All those who say different things are deluding themselves.”
PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Abbas told the Jordanian guest he was determined to proceed with plans to achieve reconciliation with Hamas. Malki quoted Abbas as saying that ending the division between Hamas and Fatah was the most significant goal for the Palestinians.Herb Keinon contributed to this report.