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15 May 2007
Israel must stop settlement expansion, King says
Aqaba, 15/5/2007, (Communication & Information Division - Royal Hashemite Court) -- His Majesty King Abdullah emphasized to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that any plans to expand settlements in Palestinian lands and escalation measures with the Palestinians thoroughly contradict the desire for peace.
During a meeting with the Israeli premier, King Abdullah stressed the need for practical steps to build bridges of confidence and facilitate the relaunch of the peace process and renew negotiations with the Palestinian side.
King Abdullah told Olmert that unilateral Israeli actions in Jerusalem, such as the excavations and construction works near the Haram Al Sharif as well as plans announced for new settlements in Arab East Jerusalem, are provocative to Muslim sentiments around the world. Referring to Israeli media reports concerning the construction of new settlements in Jerusalem, King Abdullah said Jordan rejects such measures as severe transgression of Palestinian and Arab rights in the holy city.
He added that Jordan hopes to see Israel expedite the release of Jordanian prisoners.
King Abdullah called for an end to the economic siege on the Palestinians and the removal of checkpoints that violate Palestinian rights. The King told Olmert that Israel must alleviate Palestinian funds in order to demonstrate its desire for peace and support for the Palestine National Authority under President Abbas' leadership. The King called for urgent action to alleviate the Palestinians' sixty years of suffering under Israeli occupation.
The King's meeting with Olmert, on the sidelines of the 3rd Conference of Nobel Laureates in Petra, is the latest in a weeks-long diplomatic effort to build support in Western, Arab and other Muslim states' capitals for the launching of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative.
The Arab Peace Initiative reflects the Arab states' desire for peace and is an appropriate framework for a just, comprehensive and lasting resolution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, the King said, adding that negotiations on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative can also end decades of conflict in the region and provide Israel with security and stability.
The King said that time is not on the side of either Israelis or Palestinians, and that both sides must agree to a political process with a timeline for the implementation of the initiative and enter into negotiations on the most controversial issues. He said that to squander opportunities for peace would be to subject the region's people to a cycle of chaos and violence and undermine efforts to achieve region-wide prosperity and development.
During the talks, King Abdullah said that in his recent meetings with peace activists, he noted a real desire to move forward and said they should be given every support in putting in place mechanisms that contribute to the success of the Arab Peace Initiative.
Olmert assured the King of the he will deal with utmost flexibility with President Abbas in discussions, particularly over Palestinian funds being held by Israel, adding that he will also reduce restrictions on Palestinians.
The Israeli premier denied reports on settlements, explaining that there are no plans to build new settlements. He also promised to address the Jordanian prisoners' issue as soon as possible.