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Friday, July 12, 2024
    HomeAsiaIsraeli president visits Jordan in latest sign of closer ties - officials

    Israeli president visits Jordan in latest sign of closer ties – officials

    By Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Jeffrey Heller

    AMMAN, JERUSALEM (Reuters) -President Isaac Herzog will make the first official visit by an Israeli head of state to Jordan on Wednesday, officials said, in the latest thaw in ties between two countries formally at peace for nearly three decades.

    The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including Israel's nearly 55-year-old occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, has long weighed on relations between Israel and Jordan, many of whose 10 million citizens are of Palestinian origin.

    The planned meeting between Herzog and King Abdullah follows talks the Jordanian monarch held with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank on Monday in an apparent attempt to lower tensions before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

    Last year, clashes erupted between Israeli police and Palestinians around Jerusalem's Al Aqsa mosque at the height of the Ramadan fasting month, violence that helped ignite an 11-day war in May between Gaza militants and Israel.

    In a statement, a spokesman for Herzog said issues to be raised at the royal palace include "deepening Israeli-Jordanian relations, maintaining regional stability, with an emphasis on the upcoming holiday period, (and) strengthening peace and normalisation".

    King Hussein, Abdullah's late father, signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, after years of covert contacts.

    Although his post is largely ceremonial, Herzog has been a pointman in efforts to mend long-strained relations between Israel and Turkey, visiting Ankara earlier this month for talks with President Tayyip Erdogan.

    Earlier this year, he also visited the United Arab Emirates, which along with Bahrain and Morocco normalised relations with Israel in 2020 in a sign of shared concern over Iran. Palestinians said such Arab engagement with Israel betrayed their cause.

    The foreign ministers of the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt, joined by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, held a summit in Israel on Sunday and Monday. Jordan did not attend.


    But in the latest flurry of public and secret talks in recent months by top Israeli and Jordanian officials, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz met King Abdullah in Amman on Tuesday.

    Gantz discussed "the measures that Israel is planning to take in order to enable freedom of prayer" in Jerusalem and the West Bank, an Israeli statement said, without elaborating.

    Citing security concerns, Israel has imposed age limits on Muslim worshippers at Al-Aqsa during periods of tension and restricted Palestinian travel to Jerusalem from the West Bank, territory that it captured, along with the eastern part of the holy city, in a 1967 war.

    Relations between Israel and Jordan had become more frosty during right-winger Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year run as Israeli prime minister, which ended last June.

    Israeli settlement building and then-U.S. President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem, a city at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, as Israel's capital in 2017 raised Jordanian concerns.

    Jerusalem is a particularly sensitive issue for Jordan's royal Hashemite family, which has custodianship of Muslim and Christian holy sites in the eastern part of the city, an area controlled by Jordanian forces from 1949 to 1967.

    (Reporting by Jeffrey Heller, Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Nayera AbdallahEditing by Jon Boyle, Gareth Jones, William Maclean)




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