Jordan's Abdullah woos Assad in peace push

In Damascus, two leaders stress importance of US call for peace between Israel and the Arab world.

assad abdullah 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
assad abdullah 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Jordan's King Abdullah II met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Monday in an effort to win support for a new push to reach a comprehensive peace between Israel and the Arab world. Abdullah, who announced the US-spearheaded "collective approach" last week, has outlined additional details of a scenario that would bring Palestinians as well as Arab states such as Syria and Lebanon to direct negotiations with Israel. "What we are taking about is not Israelis and Palestinians sitting at the table, but Israelis sitting with Palestinians, Israelis sitting with Syrians, Israelis sitting with Lebanese," Abdullah said in an interview published on Monday in the Times of London. "And with the Arabs and the Muslim world lined up to open direct negotiations with Israelis at the same time." The new approach would offer "not a two-state solution" but a "57-state solution," in which all of the world's Muslim countries would agree to recognize the State of Israel, Abdullah said. But whether Assad would back such an effort was unclear. Abdullah told the British paper he was hopeful that Syria could be brought on board, saying "There is a tremendous opportunity for Syria to benefit from the regional context of this and ingratiate itself into the West." The Obama administration decided last week to renew its sanctions on Damascus for another year. "The Syrians definitely see the benefit of peace negotiations with Israel and I'm hoping that... they understand that this is a regional approach, because I strongly believe that a bilateral approach between Israel and Syria would be used by one or the other side to waste time," Abdullah said. During Monday's meeting, Abdullah and Assad "affirmed the need for a comprehensive solution that should lead to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of a two-state solution in a complete regional context," according to the official Jordanian Petra news service. Such a comprehensive solution would also restore "all the occupied Syrian and Lebanese lands in the context of the provisions of the Arab Peace initiative" and other agreed-upon frames of reference, the agency said. AP contributed to this report.