East Jerusalem must be Palestine capital, says Jordan King to Pence

AMMAN • Jordan's King Abdullah voiced concern yesterday over a decision by Washington to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, saying East Jerusalem had to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

In remarks during talks with US Vice-President Mike Pence in Amman, the King said the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a two-state one.

"The US decision on Jerusalem... does not come as a result of a comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict," the monarch told Mr Pence at the start of the talks in the royal palace.

Jordan lost East Jerusalem and the West Bank to Israel during the Arab-Israeli war in 1967.

Mr Pence was in Amman on the second leg of a three-country tour that concludes in Israel. In comments delivered in Egypt, he said Washington would support a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians if the two sides agreed to it.

Last month's endorsement of Israel's claim to Jerusalem as its capital by US President Donald Trump drew universal condemnation from Arab leaders and widespread criticism elsewhere.

It also broke with decades of US policy that the city's status must be decided in negotiations with the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Mr Pence told the King that Washington was committed to preserving the status quo of holy sites in Jerusalem.

"We take no decision on boundaries and final status. Those are subject to negotiation," he said.

Mr Pence's is the highest-level visit by a US official to the region since Mr Trump made his declaration on Jerusalem last month.

Jordanian officials fear Washington's move on Jerusalem had also wrecked chances of a resumption of Arab-Israeli peace talks which the monarch had sought to revive.

King Abdullah said the US move on Jerusalem would fuel radicalism and inflame Muslim and Christian tensions.

King Abdullah's Hashemite dynasty is the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, making Amman sensitive to any changes of status of the disputed city.

Jordanian officials are further worried that the move could trigger violence in the Palestinian territories and a spillover into Jordan.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2018, with the headline 'E. Jerusalem must be Palestine capital, says Jordan King to Pence'. Print Edition | Subscribe