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Jordan’s King Abdullah II pays unannounced visit to West Bank

November 21, 2011 |  1:24 pm

AbbasREPORTING FROM RAMALLAH, WEST BANK -– Jordan’s King Abdullah II arrived Monday in the West Bank for an unannounced visit, his first in more than 10 years.

Jordan’s foreign minister, Nasser Joudeh, spoke at a news conference in Ramallah while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Abdullah met, and said an independent Palestinian state was in Jordan’s best interest. He expressed hope that Abdullah’s next visit would be to such a state, with Jerusalem as its capital.

He said that resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians based on a statement last month by the so-called quartet -- the U.S., Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- calling on both sides to come up with proposals for solving the security and borders issues within three months “is the goal we want to reach, because it is what will guarantee the establishment of the [Palestinian] state through solving all final status issues.”

Speeding up negotiations and reaching some sort of solution for security and borders would put an end to the Israeli settlement program, Joudeh said.

Abdullah is expected to travel to Europe, the U.S. and several Arab countries to discuss Mideast issues, Abbas said after the king's departure.

Analysts said they thought Abdullah’s visit was related to the turmoil in Syria and the growing unrest in Jordan, particularly since the kingdom has a large Palestinian community. They said the monarchy was opening up to the militant Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, after  long shunning the group's leaders.

Foreign Minister Joudeh confirmed that Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal would visit Jordan, but did not give a date.

Meanwhile, Abbas is scheduled to meet with Meshaal on Thursday amid efforts to reconcile the militant group and Abbas' Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank.

Abbas said he was ready to resume negotiations with Israel once it stopped building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and accepted the international guidelines for negotiations, but added that he does not see any “prospect that negotiations will resume any time soon.”

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-- Maher Abukhater

Photo: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, talks with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal during a meeting in Cairo on May 4. Credit: Reuters

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