- The Washington Times - Friday, December 22, 2006

After talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the Jordanian capital, Amman, Tuesday, King Abdullah of Jordan warned that without a prompt resolution to the longstanding Middle East conflict, everyone in the region will lose.

Several political experts go further, warning the harm caused by a renewed Middle East war would have the potential to traverse the region’s borders, spilling over into Europe, and Africa — which is already infiltrated by numerous al Qaeda operatives.

The Jordanian monarch said a two-state solution should be the basis for reviving peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. He added this is the only logical solution and the only way to fulfill the Palestinians’ aspiration to establish a sovereign, viable state and Israelis’ need to achieve security and stability.

King Abdullah held talks with Mr. Olmert, who traveled to Amman for a two-hour visit. Abdullah, according to a press release issued by the Jordanian Embassy in Washington, also telephoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for a discussion about the latest developments on the Palestinian scene. Clashes in Gaza continued between the two main factions, Fatah and Hamas, killing several people.

The fighting began last week and has been raging since, extending to other parts of Gaza City. Gunmen Tuesday were fighting in and around Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital and from an adjoining hotel where members of the international media are housed. The new violence is giving rise to fears of a civil war between closing Palestinian factions.

An informed source at the Royal Hashemite Court said that, during the phone call, King Abdullah briefed Mr. Abbas on his talks with Mr. Olmert and that the king and Mr. Abbas agreed to continue coordination between Jordan and the Palestinian National Authority to discuss all possible ways to revive the comatose peace process.

The king said Jordan was ready to exert every effort to help the Palestinians overcome their differences and foster national unity. He said Jordan is keeping all options open, including proposing to convene a meeting in Amman that can bring together President Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah to discuss ways to end political tensions between the Islamist Hamas and the more secular Fatah.

King Abdullah expressed Jordan’s concern that bloodshed in the Palestinian territories and fighting between Palestinian factions be stopped. Earlier the king warned of the possibility of three distinct civil wars in the Middle East: Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestine Territories.

The king urged Israel to enter into negotiations with the Palestinians so an appropriate framework could be found to relaunch the peace process. He told the Israeli prime minister that in order to foster confidence in the peace process, it was critical to show people on both sides of the conflict there are credible partners for peace. The benefits of peace, he continued, can only be derived through negotiations and adherence to international commitments to reach a permanent settlement that will be accepted and defended by generations to come.

The king warned that “time was being wasted with blame-laying and exchanges of accusations.” He said “any hesitance to take action that reinforces chances for peace pulls the Middle East closer to a cycle of violence for which everyone in the region will pay a heavy price.”

King Abdullah added that the region’s people are tired of waiting and of moving from one peace conference to another without visible, on-the-ground achievements. He emphasized that policies of unilateralism and of forceful imposition of facts on the ground have failed. Therefore, he said, both sides must acknowledge they have to reach a political settlement that achieves the aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis to live in peace and security.

If Palestinians and Israelis share this conviction, he said, the international community will stand by them and offer them every possible assistance. However, he warned, there would be no strong Palestinian partner for peace without serious support from Israel and the international community.

Abdullah urged Israel to give serious consideration to the Arab Peace Initiative, which he described as a framework for resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict on all fronts.

Mr. Olmert discussed steps Israel can take in the near future to relaunch the peace process with the Palestinians. He said both sides need more than ever for the international community to stand by them to achieve peace.

Claude Salhani is international editor for United Press International.

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