King urges continued US peace leadership in talks with Clinton

AMMAN – His Majesty King Abdullah on Thursday held talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on bilateral ties and efforts to achieve regional peace, a Royal Court statement said.

At the meeting, the King and Clinton discussed steps that should be taken to guarantee that direct talks between the Palestinians and Israelis achieve tangible progress towards ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of the two-state solution and within a regional context.

King Abdullah and the US official stressed their keenness to boost bilateral cooperation in various fields, particularly in the economic sector, the statement said.

At the meetting, Clinton informed the King of a decision by the council of representatives of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCM) approving a $275 million grant to finance water projects in Zarqa.

Regarding peace efforts, His Majesty reiterated that the two-state formula, which guarantees the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state to live in peace and security next to Israel, is the only way to bring security and stability to the region, according to the Royal Court statement.

The two-state solution is also the sole means towards a comprehensive regional peace as envisioned in the Arab Peace Initiative.

The top US diplomat briefed the Monarch on the direct talks held in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheikh Tuesday, which were followed by further talks in Jerusalem Wednesday, the statement said, adding that Clinton also briefed the King on the talks she held with Palestinian and Israeli officials over the past two days.

King Abdullah commended the US administration’s efforts to help achieve the two-state solution and end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, highlighting the need for the US to continue to play a leading role in the negotiations and calling for intensified efforts to end the conflict.

After the talks, attended by Royal Court Chief Nasser Lozi, King’s Adviser Ayman Safadi and Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Judeh in addition to several US officials, Their Majesties King Abdullah and Queen Rania hosted a lunch banquet for Clinton.

‘This is the time’

At a joint press conference with Judeh after the talks, Clinton said that Jordan is a crucial partner in the peace process to bring about peace and stability to the Middle East.

Stressing that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can make the difficult decisions necessary to resolve all core issues within one year, she said: “I am convinced that this is the time and these are the leaders who can achieve peace and resolve the conflict based on two states for two peoples.”

“We keep in mind what is possible and I believe that peace is possible and necessary and with the commitment of Netanyahu and Abbas, peace is within reach,” the US diplomat remarked.

Referring to the “long” hours she spent with Abbas and Netanyahu since the direct talks were relaunched early this month, Clinton said that both leaders are committed and serious in their efforts to end the conflict, which she said should also be solved within a regional context by engaging Israel in talks with Syria and Lebanon.

Judeh, for his part, remarked that the core issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – Jerusalem, refugees, borders, security and water – are directly related to Jordan and its interests.

Goodwill, strong leadership and matching words with actions are needed to ensure that the direct peace negotiations succeed, Judeh said, calling on Israel to halt all provocative unilateral measures that could jeopardise the continuation of the talks.

Clinton was in Amman after meeting in the West Bank with Abbas, who publicly pledged his support for the US-backed peace talks despite continuing difficulties over the question of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, Agence France-Presse reported.

Abbas said: “Conditions are difficult” but that “there is no choice but negotiations”.

His spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said the talks were “in-depth and serious” and that the discussions would continue on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York next week.

But a senior Palestinian official said the “gap remains wide” on the settlements dispute despite Clinton’s intervention during the past two days of peace talks in Egypt and Jerusalem.

The talks “were difficult and made no progress”, he said about a trilateral meeting on Wednesday in Jerusalem.

In that meeting, Abbas again threatened to quit the peace talks if Israel did not renew a moratorium on the construction of new homes in West Bank settlements that expires at the end of the month, according to a senior aide.

Netanyahu has thus far refused to extend the partial ban despite the urging of US President Barack Obama, though he has hinted he would confine building to major settlement blocs.

The Palestinians want to focus on reaching a deal on final borders as a way of resolving the settlements dispute, and US mediators have suggested a three-month extension of the moratorium to allow for such a deal, the Palestinian official said on Thursday. Jordantimes