Obama, Abdullah try to prod peace efforts

US president thanks king for leadership in Israel-PA talks, says US, Jordan in close consultation.

US President Barack Obama 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
US President Barack Obama 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
WASHINGTON – Seeking to keep momentum going on nascent peace talks, King Abdullah of Jordan discussed his efforts to help the Israelis and Palestinians come together during a visit here this week.
“Although this is still in the very early stages, we have to keep our fingers crossed and hope that we can bring the Israelis and Palestinians out of the impasse that we’re facing,” Abdullah said during his White House visit with US President Barack Obama on Tuesday, which he followed up with meetings with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her staff on Wednesday.
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Obama praised Abdullah for his “great leadership” on the issue, after the first talks in more than a year held between Israelis and Palestinians in Amman.
“We talked about the importance of us continuing to consult closely together to encourage the Palestinians and the Israelis to come back to the table and negotiate in a serious fashion,” Obama said.
The Palestinians have threatened to leave the talks on January 26, the date set by the Quartet for concluding a three-month period for preparatory talks, if Israel does not halt settlement construction and Jewish building in east Jerusalem.
Israel has insisted that since the talks only started this month – instead of the initial Quartet date of October – the end date for the talks should be April 3.
The US wants to see the talks continue despite the anticipated deadline, and the visit from Abdullah could add extra weight to carrying on with the process.
“It’s really important that these dates serve as a guideline, as references, as milestones, if you will, and help define or delineate this process going forward,” State Department Spokesman Mark Toner said. “But they shouldn’t be a hindrance to progress.”
Obama and Abdullah also discussed Damascus in their Oval Office meeting, with Obama calling on Syria’s leader to step aside.
“Uppermost on our minds right now is the issue of Syria,” Obama said. “We’re continuing to see unacceptable levels of violence inside that country, and so we will continue to consult very closely with Jordan to create the kind of international pressure and environment that encourages the current Syrian regime to step aside so that a more democratic process of transition can take place inside of Syria.”