Jordanian king calls for US help

Says unless deal reached during Bush term, chances for peace could be "set back decades."

abdullah ban ki-moon  (photo credit: )
abdullah ban ki-moon
(photo credit: )
Jordan's King Abdullah II warned Friday that unless a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian agreement is reached during the Bush administration's final months in office, the chances for a lasting Middle East peace could be "set back, perhaps for decades." "We are in the best possible position to resolve 60 years of conflict between Israel and Palestine," Abdullah said, adding that the United States is in a position to help resolve some complicated issues before President George W. Bush leaves office in January 2009. "It will be two or three years before a new American president will be willing to look at the Middle East," Abdullah told an audience at Princeton University. His message in a 20-minute speech sponsored by Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs was similar to the one he delivered to a joint session of the US Congress last year. It is also what he will likely tell Bush when he meets him at the White House on Tuesday. Abdullah said resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is more important to the future of the Middle East than any other issue, including the war in Iraq. It is important, he said, that Arab and Muslim states have committed themselves to a peace process at the moment. And by agreeing soon to allow a Palestinian state, Israel could quickly gain diplomatic and trade relationships with 57 countries that now refuse to deal with the Jewish state. While Israel and Palestinian leaders might agree on most issues, there are some that the international community - and especially the United States - will need to help resolve, he said. "If we miss today's opportunities, peace will be set back, perhaps for decades," he said. "Extremists will continue to act. The forces for moderation and positive change will weaken. Global divisions will not only endure but also possibly deepen." Key for the Palestinians in any peace deal is Israel's return to pre-1967 borders, the right of return of refugees and the status of Jerusalem - all issues which have derailed peace efforts before. Jordan recently began supplying electricity to the West Bank city of Jericho. He did not mention that Friday, but in recent days, Abdullah has said the purpose is humanitarian, not to gain a foothold in territory once controlled by Jordan. He said the West Bank should be part of a future Palestinian state. The West Bank was under Jordanian control from 1948 until 1967 when Israel captured the territory during the Six Day War. Jordan relinquished its claim to the West Bank in 1988. On Thursday, Abdullah met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the situation in the region.