Jordan forming int'l bloc to spur peace talks

King Abdullah says he is working with European countries to restart long-stalled negotiations between Israel, Palestinians.

Abdullah, Abbas walk in West Bank 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
Abdullah, Abbas walk in West Bank 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
Jordan is in the process of consolidating an international coalition to kick-start the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the country’s King Abdullah said Sunday in an interview with French publication Le Nouvel Observateur.
“We are working closely with several parties in Europe, including France, to put some effective and workable ideas on the table that would enable the US to engage and play a leading role in the peace process soon after the start of the second term of President [Barack] Obama,” Abdullah said in his interview, translated into English by The Jordan Times.
Abdullah expressed hope that Germany, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE would participate in the efforts.
Negotiations have been virtually nonexistent for most of the last four years, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas demanding a settlement moratorium as a precondition to talks.
Abdullah said that he was acting in order to take advantage of a “window of opportunity that is closing down on the two-state solution rather quickly.”
The Jordanian leader cited a confluence of factors which he believes is increasing the likelihood of a peace deal, including: the inauguration of US President Barack Obama, an international community which is increasingly enthusiastic about solving the conflict, the recent successful Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations, and pressures emanating from the Arab Spring.
“We do not have four more years to wait for the next US president to work on Middle East peace, particularly [considering] that Israeli settlements are eating up all Palestinian lands,” Abdullah said.
Commenting on widespread international condemnation of preliminary plans to build 3,000 new housing units in the E1 corridor connecting Jerusalem with Ma’aleh Adumim, Abdullah said the world was united against unilateral Israeli action in the West Bank. The international community displayed a “strong stance against settlements, which we agree are one of the main obstacles to peace, especially in E1 areas,” he said.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu maintains that construction plans for the E1 area do not preclude the eventual emergence of a Palestinian state, and that his government has repeatedly called for direct negotiations with the Palestinians without precondition.
Turning to Iran, Abdullah said at least some Israeli politicians are “very determined” to bomb the country’s nuclear sites, though he doubted the feasibility of such a move.
“The region doesn’t need another conflict, and I hope the Israeli people realize this,” he said.
The Jordanian king added a call for a “Middle East free of nuclear weapons” – a thinly veiled demand for Israel to dismantle its own nuclear weapons, which Jerusalem has not admitted to having.
Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem, meanwhile, said they were unaware of any concrete plans currently underway to bring Israel and the Palestinian Authority to the negotiating table immediately after Israel’s elections next week.
Netanyahu has said in internal meetings in recent days that he hopes that after the elections it will be possible to reengage with Abbas without any preconditions.
He has said, however, that he remains skeptical because Abbas seemed more intent at this time in embracing Hamas, rather than in engaging with Israel.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.