The meeting is the message as Peres visits Abdullah

The fact of the meeting itself, and that it was made public afterward, was as important as the content of what was discussed, gov't source says.

November 29, 2011 03:40
3 minute read.
Peres meets Abdullah

Peres meets Abdullah 311 R. (photo credit: REUTERS/Yousef Allan)


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King Abdullah II of Jordan, who was willing to receive President Shimon Peres on Monday in Amman, is sending a strong message that Jordan is not rolling back ties with Israel despite rising Islamic political influence in the region, government officials said following the visit.

Peres, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s knowledge and support, helicoptered to Amman for a one-hour meeting at the king’s palace, which the President’s Residence characterized as “warm, friendly and open.”

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The meeting, said a statement issued by the president’s spokesman, dealt with both regional and bilateral developments, and ways to overcome hurdles currently blocking the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.

The official Jordanian Petra news agency said Peres’s visit – kept secret until the president returned to Israel – was a “follow- up” meeting to Abdullah’s trip last week to Ramallah, and was in the context of his efforts “in support of the Palestinian people and to alleviate their suffering.”

According to the Jordanian report, Abdullah stressed the need to “stop Israeli unilateral actions, particularly all forms of settlement, which pose a major and real obstacle to peace efforts, and to refrain from any measures that could change the features of Jerusalem, or affect Islamic and Christian holy places in the Holy City.”

One government source said the fact of the meeting itself, and that it was made public afterward, was as important as the content of what was discussed.

The official said that by receiving Peres at his palace in Amman, Abdullah was signaling to the US and the West that Jordan was a force for moderation in the very volatile Middle East, and that it was standing against the tide of political Islam sweeping the region.

The visit came on the day of the beginning of parliamentary elections in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood is expected to win a large number of seats, and just a couple days after Morocco, in its elections, went the way of Tunisia and voted an Islamist party into government.

Peres’s visit also came just five days after Netanyahu highlighted in a speech to the Knesset the importance of continuing to work to “stabilize and strengthen the peace with Jordan.”

“We have a clear interest that our eastern neighbor, the Hashemite Kingdom, will continue to be strong and independent,” he said last Wednesday.

Officials in both the Prime Minister’s Office and the President’s Residence said Peres’s visit was coordinated closely with Netanyahu.

Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office also said that there was good contact between Netanyahu’s bureau and Abdullah’s office, and that the king’s rare visit to Ramallah last week to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas could not have taken place without Israel’s approval and coordination.

Peres’s visit also came amid increasing – but rather opaque – talk by Netanyahu of contacts between Jerusalem and some Arab countries.

Netanyahu spoke of this contact last Thursday, when, during a press conference with visiting Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc, he referred to newfound ties with countries in the region.

On Monday, at the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, he echoed this comment, saying there was contact with elements in the Arab world that want to develop ties with Israel. He added that this was not only because of a common interest in battling the Iranian threat.

Netanyahu did not specify which “elements” in the Arab world he was referring to, though the widespread assumption is that the contacts are with Saudi Arabia and some of the Persian Gulf countries.

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