Abbas denies holy-site treaty related to Obama visit

PA president denies reports cooperation with Jordan over defense of Jerusalem, holy sites have something to do with restarting negotiations.

April 2, 2013 00:54
2 minute read.
Abdullah, Abbas walk in West Bank, Dec. 6, 2012

Abdullah, Abbas walk in West Bank 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)


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Amid Palestinian Authority- Jordanian cooperation and reports that PA President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah have considered establishing a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation, the two leaders signed an agreement Sunday to defend Jerusalem and its holy sites.

The agreement, signed in Amman, reaffirms Jordan’s historic role as custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem.

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Abbas told reporters that the agreement had nothing to do either with efforts to restart Palestinian-Israeli negotiations or US President Barack Obama’s recent visit to the region.

Obama went to Jordan after visiting Israel, and US Secretary of State John Kerry, who accompanied Obama on his trip, returned to Israel after meetings there for four hours of meetings with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and top Israeli officials.

The PA and Jordan said that the agreement was aimed at foiling Israeli attempts to “Judaize” Jerusalem and its holy sites, particularly Al-Aksa Mosque. The agreement states that King Abdullah enjoys the “full right to exert all legal efforts to safeguard and preserve Jerusalem’s holy sites.”

It also “reaffirms the historic principles upon which Jordan and Palestine are in agreement as regards Jerusalem and their common goal of defending Jerusalem together, especially at such a critical time, when the city is facing dramatic challenges and daily illegal changes to its authenticity and original identity.”

As the custodian of the Jerusalem holy sites, the agreement says, King Abdullah will affirm that all Muslims may travel to and from the Islamic holy sites and worship there. He will also oversee and manage the institution of the Wakf in Jerusalem and its properties in accordance with the laws of Jordan.

PA Minister of Wakf and Religious Affairs Mahmoud Habbash said that the agreement stresses the historical role played by Jordan in protecting the holy sites in Jerusalem and Palestinian sovereignty over the city.

A statement issued by the Jordanian Royal Palace described the agreement as “historic,” adding that Abbas has committed to a special Jordanian role in overseeing holy sites in Jerusalem.

Abbas said that the agreement was an “extension of what already existed during the era of the late King Hussein.”

The Prime Minister’s Office would not comment on the agreement.

Netanyahu and Abdullah are believed to be in regular contact, and in a recent article on Abdullah in The Atlantic magazine, reporter Jeffrey Goldberg wrote that while captious when speaking of Netanyahu, Abdullah would only say that his relationship with the prime minister is “very strong. Our discussions have really improved.”

According to the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty, “Israel respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem.

When negotiations on the permanent status will take place, Israel will give high priority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines.”

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

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