Jordan says no to Palestinian refugees

Warns of multiple civil wars in region; Amman to host Bush, Abbas, Maliki.

abdullah abbas 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press)
abdullah abbas 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press)
King Abdullah of Jordan said on Tuesday that he would not allow a massive influx of Palestinian refugees into his country as part of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. During a speech at the Jordanian parliament, Abdullah added that he would oppose any deal that discriminated against the Palestinians or that came at Jordan's expense, Israel Radio reported. Jordan's king went on to say that he would help the Palestinians as far as possible in establishing an independent state on the basis of UN decisions and the peace process. Abdullah criticized the extremists in the region while stressing that the Jordanians "would be the first to defend Islam." Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said that he was ready to talk to Israel about the details of the initiative presented by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Sde Boker on Monday. In an interview with the El-Arabia network Abbas confirmed that he would meet US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Jericho on Thursday in an attempt "to revitalize negotiations on the basis of the cease-fire agreement." In addition, Abdullah will this week host a round of meetings aimed at preventing what he has called "a tremendous crisis" from taking place in the Middle East. Over the weekend, Abdullah warned that the region could soon become engulfed in multiple civil wars. Central to this week's diplomatic discussions will be the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Abdullah has been pushing hard for a resolution, saying the ongoing violence was a matter of national security for Jordan and the region. Abdullah said there was strong potential for civil conflicts in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and Iraq. On Wednesday, Abdullah is to meet with Abbas as part of their ongoing dialogue. They meet regularly for updates on events in the PA. Later in the day, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will arrive in Amman and hold meetings with both Abdullah and US President George W. Bush. Bush is scheduled to meet Maliki on Thursday in Amman, and Rice will be in Jordan at the same time taking part in a conference made up of G-8 and Arab foreign ministers called Forum for the Future. Maliki is under domestic pressure to cancel the talks, which are expected to focus on the deteriorating situation in his country. The discussions will look at what role the international community can play in ending Iraqi sectarian violence and strengthening its security forces. Tens of thousands of Iraqi police and army officers have already been trained in Jordan as part of Abdullah's attempts to stabilize Iraq's security situation. A conference that Jordan is preparing for all Iraqi religious leaders has already been postponed once because of Iraq's unrest. Despite persistent rumors that Olmert and Abbas would hold a summit with either Bush or Rice in Jordan later this week, both US and Israeli diplomatic officials said there were no such plans in the works. Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem said none of the logistical groundwork had been done to indicate any type of three-way meeting in Amman. Likewise, the officials said there had been no logistical groundwork to prepare a surprise US presidential visit to Israel. An unscheduled visit to Israel by Rice, however, would be easier to arrange, as she could conceivably fly over for a few hours by helicopter to meet with Olmert and Abbas, either separately or together. However, both Israeli and US officials said they knew of no such plans. US officials stressed Monday that both Bush's and Rice's attention while in Jordan would be directed eastwards toward Iraq - where there is growing concern that the situation there is spiraling out of control - rather than westward toward Israel. The officials said although Saturday evening's Gaza cease-fire announcement had led to some cautious optimism in Washington, there was no sense there of a great or dramatic surge of momentum that has launched a new Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process. Considering everything going on in Baghdad and Iraq, the officials said, "there would have to be something extremely dramatic for Washington to change its focus from Iraq." Herb Keinon contributed to this report.