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(photo credit: AP)
Saudi Arabia and Jordan cautioned Wednesday that a bloody conflict between Hamas and Fatah could hamper the creation of an independent Palestinian state and gives Israel an excuse not to make peace.
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, who is the first Saudi ruler to visit Jordan in more than 25 years, and Jordan's King Abdullah II also warned of the "dangerous repercussions of the situation in the Palestinian territories," according to a royal palace statement.
"The continuation of internal division doesn't serve national Palestinian interest, which is mainly the end of the Israeli occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state," both monarchs said. They said the infighting also gives Israel the "excuse to circumvent peace."
Both leaders stressed that need to implement an Arab peace initiative, which was revived a summit in Riyadh recently. The plan calls for full Arab recognition of Israel in return for the Jewish state relinquishing lands it captured in the 1967 Middle East War. Israel has said it will offer a counterproposal.
Following weeks of fighting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, the militant Hamas took over the coastal Gaza Strip last week, virtually cutting the Palestinian territories into two separate parts.
Jordan fears that Hamas will inspire its own Islamic opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood. Along with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the three Sunni Muslim regimes are also concerned that Gaza could be made a base for their regional non-Arab foe, Shiite Iran.
The statement said the Saudi and Jordanian kings reiterated the need to "reactivate consultation and cooperation ... to face the critical and delicate challenges sweeping the region."
Both leaders praised Abbas, saying their support was necessary to "enable him to be an effective and strong partner in the peace process."
Saudi Arabia's king arrived in Jordan on the second leg of a regional tour that has also taken him to Egypt.
The visiting monarch was driven to the talks with his Jordanian counterpart at an Amman hilltop royal palace in a motorcade of cars and horses.
Jordan's Beduin chieftains pitched their camel hair tents on major street intersections in the Jordanian capital and slaughtered animals in a traditional Arab greeting of dear guests. Dozens of people, some waving Jordanian and Saudi flags, lined the streets to greet the Saudi ruler.
Before his departure Thursday, the Saudi king is due to meet with Abbas. A Palestinian official, insisting on anonymity because he was divulging Abbas's schedule in violation of security instructions, said Abbas would brief the Saudi monarch on "details of the coup carried out by Hamas in Gaza."
In remarks published in Jordan's semi-government Al Rai newspaper, the Saudi king urged the Palestinians to put aside their differences. He also said Palestinian infighting will only benefit Israel, whose "intransigent peace policies" he blamed for the security deterioration in the Palestinian territories.
Abdullah made a similar call to Lebanese leaders, urging them to "meet and talk as partners, not rivals."
He blamed the tensions in Lebanon on unnamed "regional forces" _ a clear reference to Iran.
"Attempts by those regional forces to meddle in our affairs, to harm our security and stability, will not succeed and will fire back at them," he added.
He ruled out sectarian division among Shiite and Sunni Arabs, saying "Berlin's wall has fallen and there's no room for a wall among Arabs."
Jordan has traditionally maintained close relations with its Saudi neighbor over the years. But Riyadh ostracized Amman for its perceived tilt toward Saddam Hussein following his August 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Saudi Arabia reacted by cutting off crucial oil supplies to cash-strapped Jordan, which then said it had only sought to take a neutral position in the crisis with Saddam.
Saudi Arabia, a regional powerhouse, is one of Jordan's main bankrollers, contributing millions of dollars in cash and oil donations annually to keep Amman's economy afloat.