JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Jordan”s King Abdullah will visit Israel next week for talks with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, signaling a warming of ties after Israel”s evacuation of settlers from Gaza, a senior Israeli diplomatic source said.
The source said the meeting could possibly take place in Jerusalem but that the venue was still being finalized.
There was no immediate comment from Jordan.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said he could not confirm the meeting but that Israel would welcome such a visit.
"In Israel, King Abdullah enjoys prestige and respect and any such visit could be used both to forward the bilateral relationship between Israel and Jordan and to energize the Middle East peace process," Regev said.
The Israeli daily Maariv also said preliminary talks were being held for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to visit Israel, which would be his first since the funeral of assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.
Maariv, citing senior government sources, said Abdullah”s visit had been in the planning stages for weeks and that unless there is a last-minute hitch it would take place next week or the week after.
Jordan is one of only two Arab states to have signed a peace treaty with Israel, but bilateral relations have often been chilly during a nearly five year-old Palestinian uprising.
Abdullah helped promote a U.S.-sponsored peace "road map" launched at a summit in Aqaba in 2003 and has also backed Sharon”s "disengagement" plan for the first removal of settlements from land the Palestinians want for a state.
"Abdullah”s visit … is to show support for disengagement," the diplomatic source said.
Abdullah last visited Israel in March 2004, when he met Sharon secretly at his ranch in the Negev desert.
His father, the late King Hussein, visited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in 1997.