Jordan's king talks with Abbas on reviving Mideast peace

Abdullah: Talks must immediately tackle crucial issues such as the fate of Jerusalem and refugees.

abdullah 88 (photo credit: )
abdullah 88
(photo credit: )
Jordan's King Abdullah II urged Israel and the Palestinians Monday to actively engage in negotiations to end their lingering conflict, saying much time had been wasted. Abdullah told visiting Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that "the time element will be very critical in the coming period." "That requires both Israel and the Palestinians not to waste more opportunities and to support all Arab and international efforts to restart the peace process," Abdullah said, according to a Royal Palace statement released at the end of the talks. The king said the negotiations must immediately tackle crucial issues such as the fate of Jerusalem and refugees and lead to a Palestinian state living in peace next to Israel. Jordan, a key US ally and one of two Arab peace partners with Israel, has been actively seeking ways to push stalled Israel-Palestinian peace efforts forward since the militant Hamas' election victory last year. Abdullah appealed for a "unified position" between Abbas's Fatah faction and its Hamas rival. "It's imperative (for Israel) to have a strong Palestinian partner capable of proceeding in the negotiating process until an independent Palestinian state is set up," he said. He reiterated his support for the formation of a coalition government to "help end the current difficult situation in the Palestinian territories." Monday's meeting comes a week before scheduled talks between Abbas, Israeli President Ehud Olmert and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Abbas told reporters following the talks that he briefed the king on an agreement reached in Mecca, Saudi Arabia on Thursday with Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal. He said he also coordinated positions with the Jordanian ruler ahead of next week's meeting with Rice and Olmert, but did not elaborate. Earlier, Chief Jordanian government spokesman Nasser Judeh said it was important to maintain the "highest level" of coordination between Jordan and the Palestinians. "We're exploring every opportunity. The meeting today is very, very important," Judeh told reporters in Amman before Abdullah opened talks with Abbas. "Coordination, exchange of views following the Mecca agreement, and exploring the possibilities of how to move forward with the peace process given the steps that are going to take place in the next few weeks" would be the focus of the talks between Abdullah and Abbas. Judeh said Jordan hoped the Mecca agreement "would be a step to bring the Palestinian people closer to achieving their aims of a national unity government, an end to Palestinian infighting and a revival of the direct negotiations leading to a permanent peaceful settlement resulting in a sovereign, independent Palestinian state." Abbas' meeting with Abdullah preceded the arrival of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Amman late Monday. Putin is scheduled to hold talks with the Jordanian monarch on Tuesday on the Mideast peace process, Iraq and other troubling regional concerns. Putin will also meet Abbas before he leaves Jordan Tuesday. Russia, along with the United States, the United Nations,and the European Union comprise the so-called Quartet - a group which has endorsed a "road map" for Israeli-Palestinian peace, envisioning the creation of a Palestinian state.