Jordan’s King Abdullah II told visiting Israeli President Shimon Peres on Monday that Israel’s settlement building on Palestinian land posed a “serious obstacle” to peace efforts, the palace said.
Their meeting comes after a period of frosty ties between the neighbors. Abdullah has accused Israel of derailing peace talks by stepping up settlement building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which Palestinians seek for an independent state.
“Israel must stop unilateral measures, particularly settlement building which is a serious obstacle to peace efforts,” the king told Peres, who was in Amman on a brief and previously unannounced visit.
Peres briefed the monarch on measures Israel planned to rebuild trust with the Palestinian Authority, the Jordanian palace official said.
Last week Abdullah made a rare visit to the Israeli-occupied West Bank for talks in Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, has strongly supported a bid by the Palestinians to apply directly for full membership of the United Nations.
In a statement in Jerusalem, Peres’s office said the president had told the king that “reaching a solution of two states for two peoples is possible only through direct negotiations, and not by turning to the U.N.”.
Peres, the palace official said, was told that any measures that alter the status of East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel after it was captured from Jordan during the 1967 war, would deal a severe blow to any peace effort.
“Israel must refrain from any measures that could change the features of Jerusalem, or affect Islamic and Christian holy places in the holy city,” the official quoted the monarch as telling Peres.
The king stressed that the end to the decade’s long Arab-Israeli conflict was a two-state solution that would bring about an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital alongside Israel.
Jordan is one of the few Arab countries to recognize Israel, and a majority of its population are Palestinians descended from those displaced during the 1948 war of the Jewish state’s founding.
Jordanian officials said Abdullah’s pressure on the Israeli leadership was instrumental in bringing about Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sudden move on Sunday to delay demolition of a footbridge at Jerusalem’s holiest and most volatile religious site.
The Hashemite dynasty of Jordan has acted as custodian of the Muslim shrines of Jerusalem since the British mandate of Palestine in the early 20th century.
The family kept this role in the divided holy city even after Jordan lost East Jerusalem and the West Bank to Israel in the 1967 war. Jordan’s role was enshrined in its peace treaty with Israel and it continues to administer and pay for the upkeep of Palestinian religious sites in the holy city.
Abbas’s Palestinian Authority refuses to hold direct talks with Israel until it stops building Jewish settlements on land the Palestinians want for a state. The issue has caused talks to break down in September 2010 when Israel ended a moratorium on construction in the occupied territories.