AMMAN, Jordan (AP) – Jordan’s king called for the immediate resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks following a meeting with President Barack Obama’s new Mideast peace envoy on Saturday.
Washington dispatched envoy George Mitchell to the Mideast a week after Obama took office, signaling the new U.S. administration’s eagerness to get directly involved in peacemaking.
Mitchell has already met with Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian leaders on his trip and will hold talks with Saudi officials in Riyadh on Sunday in a bid to consolidate the cease-fire in Gaza. On Saturday, a rocket fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza exploded in a southern Israeli town. Though it caused no damage or injuries, it underlined the fragility of the truce.
After meeting Mitchell, Jordan’s King Abdullah II said he “insisted very serious negotiations should start on basis of a two-state solution as soon as possible,” according to a statement issued by the royal palace. “It’s important not to lose time, and to move immediately to resume talks,” Abdullah said. He said the negotiations should be based on international agreements and incorporate the Arab peace initiative as the means to “ensure security for all in the region.”
The plan, proposed by Saudi Arabia, offers Israel collective Arab recognition in exchange for withdrawal from territory it occupied in the 1967 war, the establishment of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital and a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem. Israel has said the initiative could be a starting point for discussion.
Mitchell has said the U.S. is committed to “actively and aggressively” seeking a lasting peace in the Middle East, but has warned there would be challenges and setbacks ahead in efforts to forge peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He did not talk to reporters during his stop in Jordan.
Israeli launched its 3-week-long offensive on Dec. 27 to stop eight years of militant rocket fire from Gaza at southern Israeli towns. Nearly 1,300 Palestinians were killed in the fighting, about half of them civilians, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
Thirteen Israelis were also killed, three of them civilians.