x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Israeli PM meets Jordan's king for talks

Two discuss 'means to achieve progress in efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in line with a two-state solution'.

AMMAN // The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, met King Abdullah II on a surprise visit to Jordan yesterday as he tries to convince the Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas to upgrade Middle East peace talks. The Israeli-Jordanian summit came a day after Mr Abbas also held talks in Amman and as the Palestinian leader prepares for an Arab League meeting on whether to resume direct peace negotiations which were halted in December 2008. The royal palace said in Amman said: "The king and the prime minister discussed means to achieve progress in efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in line with a two-state solution. "They also discussed ways to create the right environment for launching direct and serious peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel."

A senior official told AFP that "the meeting lasted for more than two hours during which the two men discussed in a clear and straightforward way measures that can be taken to achieve progress in the peace process." Mr Netanyahu's office said the two leaders discussed "the need to ensure direct, serious and effective negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians that would address all final-status issues." The visit came three months after King Abdullah told The Wall Street Journal that Mr Netanyahu's actions over the past year had brought relations between their countries to a new low.

On Monday, Mr Abbas met the king and denied that the Palestinians were hindering the start of direct talks with Israel, after Mr Netanyahu said they were dragging their feet. The latest exchange indicated a lingering gap between the two sides despite months of US shuttle diplomacy and repeated calls from President Barack Obama for the resumption of direct talks. The Arab League was due to hold a meeting in Cairo today at which Mr Abbas was to discuss the US-mediated indirect talks with Israel that started in May and to consider whether to upgrade to direct negotiations.

The Palestinian leader has repeatedly demanded that Israel first halt Jewish settlement construction and agree to its 1967 borders as the basis of negotiations. The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said yesterday after Mr Abbas met the Spanish foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, in Amman that Israel "holds the key" to direct negotiations. "We call on the Israeli government that holds the key ? to open the gate for these direct negotiations by accepting the terms of reference of two states, based on the 1967 borders," he told reporters. Mr Netanyahu and King Abdullah, whose countries signed a peace treaty in 1994, last met in May 2009, when the Israeli prime minister also made a surprise visit to Amman, six weeks after taking office.