King Abdullah meets Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on a surprise visit to Jordan, the royal court says

King Abdullah meets Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on a surprise visit to Jordan, the royal court says

AMMAN, Jan. 24 (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a surprise trip to Jordan on Tuesday for talks with King Abdullah, who the royal court said underlined the need for Israel to respect the status quo of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque. .

Far-right Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir this month visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, under heavy security. The visit angered Palestinians and sparked outrage among Arab states.

The compound is the third holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina, and the holiest site in Judaism.

Abdullah told Netanyahu, who took office last month and whose visit to Jordan marks his first foreign trip since returning to power, that Israel should respect and not violate the “historical and legal status quo in the Holy Aqsa Mosque.” said the royal family. court said.

The monarch, who had years of tense ties with Netanyahu during his previous term as prime minister, is said to have told the Israeli leader that an end to the violence was crucial to resuming long-stalled peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel.

Netanyahu’s office said the two leaders discussed regional issues, particularly strategic, security and economic cooperation between Israel and Jordan.

Jerusalem is a particularly sensitive issue for the Jordanian Hashemite royal family, as it is the custodian of Muslim and Christian holy sites in the eastern part of the city.

Netanyahu’s return to power has heightened Jordan’s concern that far-right policies, including accelerated construction of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories in the West Bank, will unleash a new cycle of violence.

The kingdom fears provocative actions by far-right Jewish groups who perform prayers on the grounds of Al-Aqsa, which Muslims consider to be part of the mosque. There are concerns that the prayer room could spark religious passions.

Jewish-religious nationalists have increasingly visited the site and demanded the right for Jews to pray at the mosque, in moves that Jordan says undermine a regulation that allows Jews and non-Muslims to come but not to pray. This arrangement has been in place for years.

Jordan is a staunch ally of Washington and is home to many people of Palestinian descent. It is hopeful that the administration of US President Joe Biden will pressure Israel to maintain the status quo at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the upkeep of which is paid for by Jordan.

Officials told Reuters that King Abdullah is expected to visit Washington in late January. He will hold talks with senior US officials and possibly meet with Biden and discuss the issue of Jerusalem and ways to boost the stalled Middle East peace process.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with his Jordanian counterpart, Ayman Safadi, shortly after Ben-Gvir’s visit. Blinken underscored the importance of preserving the historic status quo at the site, according to a statement from the State Department.

Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi in Amman Additional reporting by Rose Emily in Jerusalem Edited by Timothy Heritage and Matthew Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.

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