Jordan Slams Israeli E-1 Settlement Plans During King's Rare Visit to West Bank

Palestinians describe King Abdullah II visit as the first 'state visit' since the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade the PA's status.

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Jordan's King Abdullah II paid a rare visit to the West Bank on Thursday in a show of support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' successful bid for UN recognition of a Palestinian state.

During the visit, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh slammed Israel after it declared, as a response to the Palestinian move, to build in the corridor between Jerusalem and the settlement of Ma'aleh Adumin, known as E-1 area, saying it was unacceptable and will prevent a territorially contiguous Palestinian state.

"Building in E-1 hurts the geographical middle of the (Palestinian) state," he told a news conference in Ramallah with his Palestinian counterpart, Riyad Malki.

The king received a red carpet welcome with military honors at Abbas' government compound in the West Bank after landing in a helicopter Thursday morning.

Palestinians described the monarch's visit as the first "state visit" to their territory since the UN vote one week ago, which has been viewed as a tacit endorsement of Palestinian statehood.

Judeh said that even though the two leaders had met in the Jordanian capital only two days ago, Abdullah wanted to be "the first one to visit Ramallah to congratulate President Abbas and the Palestinian people for the strategic decision at the United Nations."

Malki said that the visit had special meaning, since it is the first for a head of state after becoming a non-member state at the UN. He said the meeting between Abbas and Abdullah was "productive" and that the two sides "fully agree on all issues." The king "is interested in knowing how Jordan can help the Palestinians to become a full member of the UN and an actual state on the ground," Malki said.

The city of Ramallah named a square after King Abdullah in appreciation for his support, Malki said.

Jordan is an important backer of the Palestinians and the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as being a key U.S. ally in the region. It was also the second Arab state after Egypt to sign a peace treaty with Israel.

Abbas and the king are political allies, and last met Sunday in Jordan, during one of the Palestinian leader's frequent stops in the neighboring kingdom. But Thursday's visit was just the third time the king has visited the West Bank, and the first time in more than a year.

Last week, the UN General Assembly recognized a state of Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem - lands Israel occupied in 1967 - as a non-member observer.

Israel accuses the Palestinians of trying to circumvent the negotiating process by seeking UN recognition. Although the vote did not change the situation on the ground, the international community endorsed the Palestinian position on future borders with Israel. Israel refuses to return to its pre-1967 lines.

Israel has responded to the Palestinians' UN move by cutting off a regularly scheduled $100 million tax transfer to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, and announced plans to build thousands of new settler homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

The settlement plans have sparked widespread international criticism, and prompted the Palestinians to file a complaint at the United Nations. But Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has refused to back down. 

King Abdullah II (L) speaking with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas upon his arrival in the West Bank city of Ramallah.Credit: AFP
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, 2nd left, and Jordan's King Abdullah, 2nd right, walk together after Abdullah's arrival in the West Bank city of Ramallah, December 6, 2012.Credit: Reuters

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