Jordan, Israel in rare meeting on Palestinian issue

Palestinian demonstrators clash with Israeli soldiers during a protest against Jewish settlements November 24, 2020, in the Jordan Valley in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. — AFP pic
Palestinian demonstrators clash with Israeli soldiers during a protest against Jewish settlements November 24, 2020, in the Jordan Valley in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. — AFP pic

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AMMAN, Dec 4 — Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi has held a rare meeting with his Israeli counterpart to press for the restart of stalled negotiations between the Palestinians and the Jewish state.

Yesterday’s meeting came days after Palestinian Authority leader Mahmud Abbas visited Jordan as part of an Arab tour to raise support for the Palestinians after Joe Biden won last month’s US presidential election.

During the meeting at the King Hussein (Allenby) Bridge crossing between Jordan and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Safadi said the creation of an independent Palestinian state was key to ending the conflict with Israel.

“There is no alternative to a two-state solution” between Israel and the Palestinians, he told Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, quoted by the official Petra news agency.

“It is necessary to return to the negotiating table according to international law in order to find a real solution to achieve a just peace,” Safadi said.

On Friday, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz called on the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table, in a video statement addressing the “Palestinian people and their leadership”.

“The Middle East is changing. It is in your interest to come return to negotiate,” Gantz said in the statement that was posted online with Arabic subtitles.

“Don’t stay behind,” he said, promising to “promote big projects” in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip.

Yesterday’s meeting was the first with Jordan officially reported between Safadi and Ashkenazi since the latter, a former army chief of staff, become foreign minister in May.

Jordan and Israel have been bound by a peace treaty since 1994, but relations between the two neighbours are often tense.

Eyes on Biden

Safadi said resuming Israeli-Palestinian talks was timely, “particularly in light of the Palestinian Authority’s decision to resume security cooperation with Israel”.

The Palestinians announced last month they were restoring coordination that they had stopped in May over Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

Israel put on hold its annexation plans, in return for an agreement to normalise ties with the United Arab Emirates announced in August.

Abbas held talks in Jordan last week with King Abdullah II ahead of visits to Egypt, where he met separately with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

During the tour, Arab leaders stepped up international efforts for a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict based on a two-state solution.

Talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been frozen since 2014, and a US peace plan announced in January has been welcomed by Israel but rejected outright by the Palestinians as biased.

The plan was among moves pushed by President Donald Trump — including recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided capital”— that have angered the Palestinians.

The Palestinians, who want to set up an independent state with east Jerusalem as its capital, broke ties with the Trump administration, and are now hoping to build ties with Biden’s incoming team. — AFP

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