World

Jordan to Israeli PM: Make peace with Palestinians

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordan's king called on visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday to seize the moment and opportunity made possible under a U.S. diplomatic push to achieve a lasting and comprehensive settlement with the Palestinians, the Royal Palace said.

The appeal came during a surprise visit by Netanyahu, who held talks with Abdullah II on the latest in the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. The palace said the two talked behind closed doors about the "developments in the peace process" and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations sponsored by the United States.

The visit was not previously announced. Netanyahu made at least three similar visits to Jordan last year. There was no immediate comment in Israel on Thursday's visit. Jordan maintains cordial relations with Israel under a peace treaty signed in 1994 — one of only two signed agreements the Jewish state has with an Arab nation.

Abdullah's talks with Netanyahu came a week after the king hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and days earlier, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The palace statement said the meeting with Netanyahu was significant because it coincided with a "critical period" in the negotiations. It did not elaborate, but added that Thursday's talks were part of Jordan's "cooperation with all the sides involved in the peace process."

The palace quoted Abdullah as urging Netanyahu to make use "and build on the opportunity made available by the consolidated efforts of the U.S. secretary of state to achieve tangible progress in the peace negotiations."

The ultimate goal, Abdullah added, is the establishment of an "independent and viable Palestinian state" with East Jerusalem as its capital. He stressed that Palestinian-Israeli final status negotiations touch on "higher Jordanian interests."

"They are a top priority for us," he reportedly told Netanyahu. The palace said Netanyahu briefed Abdullah on the negotiations with the Palestinians, but did not provide details. In the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which resumed last summer, the two sides set an April target date for agreeing on a framework for peace. But in recent weeks, they appear to have hardened their positions.

The Palestinians seek the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, territories captured by Israel in 1967, for an independent state. Netanyahu wants to keep parts of the West Bank and says he will not share control of east Jerusalem, home to sensitive religious sites. He has also insisted that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland, a condition they say would undermine the rights of Palestinian refugees and Israel's own Arab minority.

Jordan has significant interest in the peace talks, especially in its own border with a future Palestinian state, as well as in the fate of Jerusalem and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and their descendants displaced to the kingdom in the 1967 Mideast War.

Jordan hosts the largest number of Palestinians outside the West Bank and Gaza. Also, the peace treaty with Israel recognizes a "special" Jordanian role in caring for Muslim and Christian holy shrines in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinian hope would be the capital of their future state.

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