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King meets Kerry, Netanyahu for talks on Jerusalem tension

By Merza Noghai , AFP - Nov 13,2014 - Last updated at Nov 13,2014

AMMAN — His Majesty King Abdullah on Thursday hosted a trilateral meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cool tempers arising as a result of Israeli policies in Jerusalem, which Amman has labelled as “provocative”. 

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi joined the Amman meeting over the phone.

According to a Royal Court statement, the three sides also discussed ways to create a climate encouraging the revival of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.

Netanyahu, the statement said, “reasserted Israel’s commitment to keep the status quo in Jerusalem’s holy sites without change… and respect Jordan’s Hashemite leaders’ historical role as custodians of holy sites in Jerusalem”. 

During the meeting, His Majesty emphasised Jordan’s stand on the situation in Jerusalem, reiterating a call on Tel Aviv to take practical steps to keep the situation there intact, especially at Al Aqsa Mosque and its vicinity.  

Earlier this month, Jordan recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv to protest Israeli practices in the holy city, particularly the repeated violations of the sanctity of Al Haram Al Sharif compound, which houses Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest shrine to Muslims all over the world.

On the peace process, the King called on the US and all stakeholders to work as soon as possible to address the obstacles facing peace efforts and the resumption of talks to reach a solution in line with the two-state formula, leading to the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state within the pre-1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

His Majesty and the two officials discussed with Sisi over the phone the peace process, the situation in Jerusalem and anti-terrorism efforts, while the King expressed sympathies with Egypt, which has been targeted by a series of terrorist attacks in various parts of the country, the Royal Court said.

Earlier in the day, King Abdullah held a meeting with Kerry, during which he underlined Jordan’s commitment to continued coordination with all stakeholders to revive peace talks that address all final-status issues, which, he said, require a genuine Israeli intention to stop the unilateral measures and frequent attacks on Jerusalem.

King Abdullah said there is no other option but to establish the envisioned Palestinian state.

For his part, Kerry acquainted the King with US efforts to bring about peace, in addition to its role as part of the international alliance to fight terrorist groups. 

He voiced his appreciation for Jordan’s endeavours to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East, according to the Royal Court. 

At a press conference following the meeting, held jointly between Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and Kerry, the US official said steps were agreed on to lower tensions between the Israelis and Palestinians.

After the three-way talks, Kerry said “firm commitments” had been made to maintain the status quo at holy sites in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.

He said Israel and Jordan had also agreed to take steps to “de-escalate the situation” in Jerusalem and to “restore confidence”.

Judeh reiterated that Jordan wants to maintain the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem and respect for the Hashemite custodianship of the shrines.

The top US diplomat’s diplomatic push Thursday included separate meetings with Netanyahu and Abbas in Amman.

The talks focused on “ways to restore calm and de-escalate tensions in Jerusalem,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said ahead of the talks in the capital.

Months-long unrest in annexed East Jerusalem has in recent days spread to the occupied West Bank and Arab communities across Israel, raising fears of a new Palestinian uprising.

On Wednesday, Israel approved plans for another 200 settler homes in annexed East Jerusalem — a move sharply criticised by Washington.

Much of the unrest in Jerusalem has been fuelled by Israeli moves to step up settlement activity in the city’s eastern sector and by allowing extremists to storm Al Aqsa compound, the third holiest site for 1.5 billion Muslims.

The Palestinians have also been infuriated by a far-right Jewish campaign for prayer rights at Al Aqsa.

Although Israel insists it has no plans to change the decades-old status quo, Jordan believes, as Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour put it, there is a plan in that direction by the Israeli government. 

Earlier, a tense confrontation erupted in the city’s Issawiya neighbourhood as about 100 residents, including schoolchildren, tried to block a main road after police closed off several neighbourhood entrances with concrete blocks.

A local activist denounced the blocks as “collective punishment” against Palestinians in Jerusalem.

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