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Jordan will not be taken by surprise on Mideast peace — PM

By Khaled Neimat - Feb 05,2014 - Last updated at Feb 05,2014

AMMAN — Jordan is not being kept in the dark about developments in the US-brokered Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour told deputies on Tuesday.

Jordan is a key player in the efforts to ensure a fair agreement is reached, Ensour said, adding that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has provided assurances that the Kingdom will be kept apprised of the progress in the talks and any decisions that will be taken ahead of time.

At a Lower House session dedicated to discussing US Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace proposals, the premier said Jordan is waiting for feedback from the Palestinian negotiators over the negotiations on final status issues — such as Jerusalem, borders and the Palestinian refugees’ right to return — which are part of the Kingdom’s higher interests.

“Jordanians will not be taken by surprise,” Ensour stressed, adding: “We take the Palestinian commitment in this regard seriously.”

“There will be nothing kept away from you or secrets that would surprise you,” he told the MPs.

On the refugee issue, Ensour said it is “at the core of our interests to defend the rights of Jordanian citizens”, including those of Palestinian origin.

“We will not accept any disregard of their rights, particularly, the right to return and compensation,” he said.

When it comes to Jerusalem, Jordan does not recognise anything other than the 1967 border, Ensour stressed, noting that Jordan supports a two-state solution that ensures an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

No other option is acceptable, he said.

Jerusalem triggered a debate among the MPs, with some of them considering the Old City or East Jerusalem as the right description for the capital of the future Palestinian state, while others argued that Jerusalem is one city and cannot be divided.

Ensour stressed that there will be no foreign forces on the East Bank of the Jordan River, adding that no Jordanian soldier will be stationed in the West Bank.

“No Jordanian soldiers will cross the waters” between Jordan and the West Bank, the premier said.

The MPs on Tuesday accused the government of being vague and reluctant in informing the public of Kerry’s ongoing efforts to reach a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict.

Some of the MPs who spoke during the session called on the government to resign if it is unable to face the rising pressure to make some concessions related to the country’s national interests.

Deputies Khamis Atiyeh (the Homeland list) and Abdul Jalil Zyoud (Amman, 6th District) submitted a proposal calling on the Lower House and the government to announce their refusal of what they described as “Kerry’s plan”.

The top US diplomat toured the region over the past few weeks trying to bring the Palestinians and the Israelis to a midway solution and to draft what he described as a “framework agreement” that would pave the way to resolve final status issues, including the Palestinian refugee issue.

The MPs’ remarks also came in response to Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh’s statement, in a previous session, in which he explained Jordan’s position on Kerry’s recent efforts.

Judeh told the lawmakers at the time that Jordan will not accept any solution to the Palestinian refugee issue without taking into consideration its national interests, including those of its citizens of Palestinian origin.

He said the Kingdom retains its right “to reject, accept or express reservation” over any solution that comes at the expense of its national rights.

However, he could not convince certain voices in the Lower House that Jordan’s rights are well-protected under Kerry’s plan.

During Tuesday’s session, former Lower House speaker Abdul Karim Dughmi said it is “dangerous” to talk about settling Palestinian refugees in Jordan and granting citizenship to the children of Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians.

“I agree with allowing them civil rights through issuing them a special card rather than temporary passports,” he said.

Jordan hosts the largest number of Palestinian refugees who fled or were forced to leave their lands after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, which ended in the creation of Israel.

MP Mustafa Shneikat (the People list) called on the government to reject any negotiations offered at this stage, describing the current regional situation as “not ideal” for finalising negotiations.

He charged that Kerry’s plan serves only the interests of Israel to obtain recognition from Arab countries as “a Jewish state”.

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