Jordan's Abdullah 'cautiously optimistic' on peace

On visit to US to update Obama on status of Amman talks, Jordanian monarch tells 'Washington Post' that Israelis, Palestinians taking "baby steps" toward direct negotiations.

King Abdullah of Jordan 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
King Abdullah of Jordan 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Jordan's King Abdullah expressed cautious optimism after three rounds of talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Amman, saying that both sides were "looking for a way out" of the difficult positions they have entrenched themselves in.
The Jordanian monarch spoke to The Washington Post in an interview published Tuesday ahead of a meeting with US President Barack Obama, in which he was expected to update the US president on the status of the negotiations.
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"I am cautious about saying that I’m cautiously optimistic,” the Post quoted King Abdullah as saying.
“I do believe they want a way out, a way to get to negotiations,” Abdullah said. “We all know the positions in which they have entrenched themselves. However, the intent, I believe, is there — from both sides. It is little baby steps, right at the beginning," he stated.”
The Jordanian leader's comments came as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas traded barbs in the media on Monday.
Netanyahu accused the Palestinians of breaking their pledge to keep the content of the talks in Amman confidential.
“There was a commitment made by the parties in Jordan that they would be very discreet about the negotiations,” Netanyahu told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee at the Knesset.
Instead, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has leaked information to the media, the prime minister said.
“He keeps talking, and talking and talking,” Netanyahu said.
At a press conference in London, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had equally harsh words to say about Netanyahu. During the three meetings in Amman between Erekat and the prime minister’s envoy Yitzhak Molcho, the Israelis had failed to put forward any proposal for the peace process, Abbas said.
“We hope that Prime Minister Netanyahu is going to submit some proposal to us. We do not care what type of proposal. Maybe we’ll agree to it, maybe we’ll not agree to it, but the main thing is that he should submit some kind of proposal to us,” Abbas said.
“Unfortunately until now – and this goes until yesterday – no such proposal has been submitted to the Palestinians,” he added.
Underneath the accusations that flew between the two leaders is a deep divide over the future of the talks.
The Palestinians have insisted that the talks should adhere to the timetable of January 26 set by the Quartet, unless Israel agrees to halt settlement activity and stop Jewish building in east Jerusalem.
Israel in turn has insisted that the three-month timetable set for talks does not end at the end of January. Since the talks only started this month instead of in October, Jerusalem says, their true end date is April 3.
“I hope that we can overcome this obstacle of January 26 so we can continue the negotiations,” Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Tovah Lazaroff and Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.