PM visits Jordan for surprise meeting

Abdullah offers to host talks between Abbas, Haniyeh to resolve in-fighting.

By
December 19, 2006 15:22
2 minute read.

 
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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Jordan's King Abdullah II discussed the deteriorating situation in the Palestinian Authority and the possible spillover effect on Jordan during Olmert's unannounced visit to Amman on Tuesday, government officials in Jerusalem said. Olmert flew to Amman in the afternoon for a meeting that officials said was planned "well in advance." The meeting was suppose to remain a secret, but the Royal Palace in Amman soon learned that reporters were aware of the visit and would report on it. According to the officials in Jerusalem, the two men, "who met for some two hours," discussed the repercussion of the situation in the Palestinian Authority and how various scenarios could affect regional stability. Diplomatic officials said Abdullah was worried that a civil war in the PA could lead to an influx of Palestinian refugees into Jordan, and about the impact of an emboldened Hamas on Islamic extremists in his country. The officials also said Jordan was carefully watching how Israel responded to the recent overtures from Damascus. Relations between Syria and Jordan are tense, the officials said, with Amman suspecting Damascus of trying to undermine Abdullah. The officials said Amman was pleased that Syria was isolated internationally, and was not keen on seeing anything change that situation. Olmert was accompanied by his chief of staff, Yoram Turbowicz, foreign policy adviser Shalom Turgeman, and military secretary Brig.-Gen. Gadi Shamni. While this was the first meeting between Olmert and Abdullah since June, government officials said they speak on the phone regularly. The Prime Minister's Office had nothing to say about the meeting other than confirming that it took place and that the two leaders discussed "bilateral issues, developments in the PA and the broader regional situation." Jordan's Petra news agency reported that Abdullah told Olmert that unilateral actions would not succeed and stressed the importance of the Arab League peace initiative. According to a statement released by the royal palace, Abdullah urged Olmert to "engage in negotiations with the Palestinians so that an appropriate framework could be found to relaunch the peace process." It said the king told the prime minister that "in order to foster confidence in the peace process, it was critical to show people on both sides of the conflict that there are credible partners for peace." According to the statement, Abdullah briefed Abbas on his talks with Olmert by telephone. The palace also said Abdullah would invite the leaders of Hamas and Fatah to talks on ending their conflict. "Jordan is willing to do all it can to help the Palestinians overcome their differences and to bolster Palestinian unity," the statement said. "All options are open, including a call for a meeting in Amman between Palestinian leader [Abbas] and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh." AP contributed to this report.

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