RAMALLAH - Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday that Jordan's King Abdullah had called off a planned visit to this city because of "bad weather." No new date has been set, although sources close to Abbas and Abdullah said the king may come to Ramallah in the next few days.
Abbas's announcement led to a wave of speculation as to the real reason behind the king's decision to cancel his trip.
Some PA officials claimed Abdullah's move came in protest of Israel's refusal to allow PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas to travel out of the Gaza Strip to participate in the Abbas-Abdullah summit.
According to the officials, Abdullah was hoping to bring Abbas and Haniyeh together to resolve the ongoing crisis between Abbas's Fatah faction and Hamas.
"The king was very disappointed when he learned that Israel would not permit Haniyeh to leave the Gaza Strip," they said. "Israel is responsible for the cancellation of the visit."
But a statement issued by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office denied the claims, saying that the Israel Air Force had determined that the king's helicopter would not be able to land safely in Ramallah due to the bad weather.
Other PA officials said the visit might have been canceled for security reasons.
They claimed the Jordanians had expressed fear that Palestinians or a group linked to al-Qaida were planning to fire missiles at the king's helicopter as it made the 20-minute trip from Amman to Ramallah.
A Jordanian helicopter carrying scores of Jordanian journalists hovered over Ramallah for nearly 50 minutes before heading back to the kingdom.
Abbas's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, said that the helicopter had been unable to make a safe landing because of the bad weather, although the sky had been relatively clear.
The king was supposed to arrive for a rare visit at around 11 a.m. PA and Jordanian officials said he had been slated to return home at 2 p.m.
"The king's helicopter tried to leave Amman, but was unsuccessful because of the bad weather," Abbas told dozens of reporters who had been gathered outside his office since 7 a.m. to cover the royal visit - the first of its kind in the West Bank since 2000. "We don't want unnecessary risks, and that's why we asked him to call off the visit."
Abbas said his talks with Abdullah were supposed to focus on the political situation in the region, and not bilateral relations. "Our relations are excellent," he said. "That's why there is no need to discuss this issue. We were hoping to discuss the situation in the region in the wake of the last Arab summit's decision to reendorse the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002."
Abbas dismissed reports according to which Jordan was interested in reestablishing its historic ties with the West Bank through a confederation with a Palestinian state.
"We want to get rid of the occupation and achieve liberation," he said. "Then we want to establish an independent Palestinian state. Only then will we start discussing other issues related to our relations with Jordan."