Text size

In an interview with Israel's Channel 2 television to be broadcast Saturday, Jordan's King Abdullah there is broad Arab agreement that a Palestinian unity government must adhere to the demands of the Quartet of Middle East mediators.

Abdullah's comments are the first from an Arab leader to cast doubt on the willingness of major Arab donors to sidestep a U.S.-led embargo of the Hamas-led government unless it commits to recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and abiding by interim peace deals.

"You're not alone on this," the monarch said in the interview when asked about Israeli concerns the power-sharing deal between Hamas and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah failed to meet the Quartet's demands.

"There's international common ground - not just Western but also Arab and to an extent Muslim - that believe that there have to be certain criteria that the new government has to accept if we're going to move the process forward," he said.

"You have a president, Mahmoud Abbas, who is your negotiator, who... is prepared to be able to move the peace process forward, and a government that's going to be formed that will have to adhere to the Quartet conditions," he said.

The unity government agreement contained a vague promise to "respect" previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. But the pact did not directly commit the new government to renouncing violence or recognizing Israel.

Abdullah said the goal of the unity agreement was to stop fighting between Hamas and Fatah.

"It's not just ... the international players, but also the Arab countries are also expecting the new Palestinian government to adhere to the policies that we have set out in the Quartet, and in the Arab Quartet also," he said, referring to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Abdullah said Abbas should be given "the mandate to start negotiations with the Israelis," and the new government should be in "full compliance with the Arab Accord as well as international commitments."

The Arab initiative, launched in 2002, would trade diplomatic recognition for Israel's withdrawal from land it occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Abdullah said the initiative was being re-launched and could draw broader support from Muslim countries around the world.

In the interview, the monarch said time was running out to revive the long-stalled peace process. "I think the circumstances in the Middle East have changed so much so that really this is our last opportunity," he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held a three-way meeting on Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas which appeared to do little to jumpstart peace-making.

"I can say they (the talks) have started, not as well as I think we... expected, but it's a move in the right direction," Abdullah said.

Abdullah said on Friday there was little time left to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that this may be "the last opportunity for peace".

"We find ourselves at this very important crossroads... What I do feel really is the last opportunity for peace for all of us," Abdullah said in the interview.

"The opportunities that we have are diminishing and... I believe that the way the dynamics are changing is that we will find ourselves in a very short period of time with never being able to push the two-state solution," he added.