Jordan king urges Olmert to renew peace talks with Palestinians

June 10, 2006 - 0:0
AMMAN (AFP) -- Jordanian King Abdullah II has urged visiting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to renew peace talks with the Palestinians to pave the way for creation of an independent Palestinian state.

The king told Olmert his country was ready to help the two sides return to the negotiating table.

"A two-state solution is the only solution that we should seek. It is a solution that must be achieved through bilateral Palestinian-Israeli negotiations," the king said after 90 minutes of talks with Olmert.

"Jordan expressed its commitment to help the Palestinians and the Israelis achieve the peace that we all aspire for," he said, reading from a prepared text.

He made no mention of Olmert's election pledge to fix his country's borders unilaterally by 2010 in case of failure to agree with the Palestinians.

Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have criticized that plan as threat to regional stability, and officials said King Abdullah would spell out his position in the talks with Olmert.

For his part, Olmert acknowledged that the political stalemate in the Middle East peace process was not beneficial to Israel, the Palestinians or Jordan.

He said Israel was bound to the international roadmap for peace that envisions the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but warned that he will pursue "other solutions" if that fails.

"There will be no other alternative," he said.

King Abdullah insisted that only an independent Palestinian state would lead to a "comprehensive Middle East peace that provides security and stability to every Arab and Israeli man, woman and child. "It is a peace that people on both sides will defend and protect now and in the future." Olmert described his talks with the king as "fruitful" and said the two had "agreed to continue to work together in the future and remain in close contact in order to promote our mutual interests"

"We also agreed to closely cooperate and coordinate future steps that will be taken as we have done in the past," he said.

Olmert's visit to Jordan is the first by an Israeli premier since June 2003, when King Abdullah hosted Olmert's predecessor, Ariel Sharon, at the unveiling of the roadmap. The two countries have been bound by a peace treaty since 1994.

It comes a day after the king warned in an Israeli newspaper interview that any unilateral action by Israel could "damage the ability to improve relations between us and Israel".

The Israeli plan would also "raise question marks and a sense of insecurity not only among the Palestinians, but among all the partners of peace in the region," King Abdullah told the Yediot Aharonot.

Also on Wednesday, the Jordanian monarch reiterated that his country will never become a substitute homeland for the Palestinians.

Olmert was elected in March on a pledge to set the borders unilaterally in case of failure to agree with the Palestinians, triggering security concerns across the Arab world.

On the eve of the visit, the Jordanian monarch and Saudi King Abdullah held talks in Riyadh, during which they slammed the unilateral option, called for a resumption of the peace process based on an Arab initiative drawn up by Saudi Arabia in 2002 and urged Palestinian factions to unite.

That initiative, like the roadmap, stipulates the creation of an independent Palestinian in exchange for the Arabs normalizing ties with Israel. **********Caption: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (L) shakes hands with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Amman. King Abdullah II has urged Olmert to renew peace talks with the Palestinians to pave the way for creation of an independent Palestinian state.(AFP/Khalil Mazraawi)