Middle East

Kerry to meet Netanyahu, Jordan king Thursday

Jordan's King Abdullah (R) meets U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the Royal Palace in Amman November 13, 2014. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

AMMAN: Jordan's King Abdullah and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet in Amman later Thursday with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to try to ease strife among Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem.

Earlier, Abdullah accused Israel of "repeated attacks" on holy sites in Jerusalem and said they must stop.

The meeting indicates concerns that the violence over the holy sites could lead to a new Palestinian uprising and complicate Jordan's role in the U.S.-led coalition battling ISIS.

Unrest has flared in the past few weeks over Jerusalem's most sacred and politically sensitive site, revered by Muslims as Noble Sanctuary, where al-Aqsa mosque stands, and by Jews as the Temple Mount, where their biblical temples once stood.

The three-way meeting in the Jordanian capital "will focus on ways to restore calm and de-escalate tensions in Jerusalem," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

Kerry, who added stop in Amman to the end of a trip to Europe, China and other Middle Eastern cities, conferred in Amman earlier on Thursday with the Jordanian monarch, who has stewardship over the al-Aqsa compound, and with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

A palace statement quoted Abdullah as telling Kerry: "Israel must end its unilateral steps and its repeated attacks on the holy sanctities in city of Jerusalem and especially those that target the Noble Sanctuary and the Aqsa mosque."

Jordan last week recalled its ambassador to Israel in protest, the first time it had done so since the two countries signed a peace treaty in 1994.

Netanyahu's visit to Amman will be his first since January. His office declined comment on the meeting.

Ultra-nationalists in Israel are challenging the decades-long ban on Jews praying at the Temple Mount. Netanyahu has pledged not to alter the status quo, and has blamed Palestinians in the West Bank for fomenting violence.

Jordanian officials fear wider unrest in the West Bank could spill over into their own country, where a majority of the population are descendants of Palestinians who fled across the river Jordan following the creation of Israel in 1948.





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