Abdullah makes unannounced trip to Syria

Jordan's king to meet with Assad in first Damascus visit in four years ahead of Cairo peace meeting.

Jordan abdullah 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Jordan abdullah 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Jordan's King Abdullah II arrived in Syria Sunday on a previously unannounced trip, his first to the Syrian capital in nearly four years, Syria's official news agency reported. Jordan's chief government spokesman Nasser Judeh confirmed Sunday that King Abdullah II would be traveling to Damascus to meet President Bashar Assad, describing the visit as "important." He did not, however, detail the topics to be discussed. The reason for the surprise visit was not immediately clear, but relations between the two neighbors have been bumpy for years, particularly in the last few months over a host of political issues. The visit comes few days before Arab foreign ministers are to meet in Cairo, Egypt, where they are expected to come up with a unified stand on a US-sponsored peace conference scheduled for later this month. Syria has repeatedly said it would attend the conference to be held in Annapolis, Maryland, only if discussions included the return of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau Israel captured from Syria in the Six-Day War and later annexed. Although US officials have said the focus of the conference will be the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in recent days that he hoped Syria would take part. Arab League chief Amr Moussa, who visited Damascus this week, said Arab states would come up with a united stand on the conference at a meeting of Arab foreign ministers to be held in Cairo Nov. 22-23. The last time the Jordanian king visited Syria was in February 2004.