Jordan PM: Israel's Obstinacy to Peace May Further Destabilize Mideast

Speaking after meeting with U.S. State Department official, Jordan PM Bakhit says Israel should give up its 'fortress mentality' in favor of justice and dignity.

Israel's obstinacy in Middle East peace talks could further anger an already volatile Arab public opinion, Jordan's Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit told a senior U.S. official on Saturday, adding that he hoped Israel would give up its so-called "fortress mentality."

Marouf Bakhit - Reuters - 9/2/2011

In a statement released after his meeting with Under Secretary of State William Burns, Bakhit said he told the U.S. official that "Israel should give up its fortress mentality and stop all unilateral actions, particularly the building of settlements."

"Israel should look forward to the future and realize that justice and the dignity of peoples are an indispensable issue and that the continued deadlock in the peace process will only enhance the anger of peoples in the region as a result of their feeling of an imbalance in the criteria of justice," said Bakhit, a former ambassador to Israel.

During his visit to Jordan, Burns also conducted meetings with King Abdullah II and Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, in an effort to find ways of breaking the deadlock in the Middle East peace process.

According to Bakhit, they also discussed the latest developments in the region, a reference to the Egyptian uprising that led to the resignation of pro-West president Hosny Mubarak on Friday.

The Palestinian Authority withdrew from the U.S.-brokered direct talks with Israel at the end of September after the Israeli government refused to extend a partial freeze on the building of settlements in Palestinian East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Bakhit formed his cabinet earlier this week after King Abdullah sacked the government of former premier Samir Rifai. His firing followed a series of protests that swept the country, inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

Bakhit had told the American envoy that his government had taken note of regional changes and "was taking measures to speed up political and economic reforms" and take serious steps to fight corruption.

King Abdullah also held a separate meeting on Saturday with the Russian Middle East envoy Alexander Sultanov.