President Obama praises King Abdullah's leadership in the Middle East
King Abdullah has taken a more active role in the talks
Jordan hosted Palestinian and Israeli negotiators earlier this month
No significant breakthrough was made, but they agreed to meet again
Jordan’s King Abdullah met Tuesday with U.S. President Barack Obama to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the conflict in Syria, which borders Jordan.
The two leaders told reporters after their White House talks that they would continue working together to bring about a resumption of Middle East peace talks, with King Abdullah citing the need to “keep our fingers crossed” for progress.
In recent months, King Abdullah has taken a more active role in trying to bridge the gulf between Israelis and Palestinians, filling the vacuum created by the removal of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak.
Earlier this month, Palestinian and Israeli negotiators met in Amman with representatives of the Middle East Quartet – made up of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia – in an effort to relaunch negotiations after more than a year of deadlock.
No significant breakthrough was made, but the two sides agreed to meet again.
Obama said Tuesday he wanted to express his appreciation for the monarch’s leadership in the region amid the change of what is known as the Arab Spring that has toppled governments in Egypt and Libya.
On Syria, Obama noted that King Abdullah was the first leader of an Arab state to call on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down over excess brutality against his own people.
Obama thanked the king “for his willingness to stand up,” and for Jordan’s role in Arab League efforts to encourage a needed peaceful transition in Syria.
“Unfortunately, we’re continuing to see unacceptable levels of violence inside that country, and so we will continue to consult very closely with Jordan to create the kind of international pressure and environment that encourages the current Syrian regime to step aside so that a more democratic process of transition can take place inside of Syria,” he said.
In addition, Obama noted what he called the “extraordinary efforts that have been made by his majesty” and Jordan’s prime minister “in guiding political reform in Jordan,” putting them “ahead of the curve in trying to respond to legitimate concerns both politically and economically.”
“We have said we want to be as helpful as we can,” Obama said of Jordanian reform efforts.
In his remarks, King Abdullah expressed his gratitude for U.S. support for Jordan’s political reforms, as well for its economic support.
Obama, in his comments, said the United States is providing “timely assistance in areas like food security this week.”
“As we move into political reform, obviously the economy and the situation that challenges the livelihood of Jordanians is very, very important as we move forward. But we are very, very optimistic,” said King Abdullah.
Outside the White House, however, the Jordan National Movement, a group that says it seeks to promote democracy in the country, protested King Abdullah’s “absolute monarchy system in Jordan.”
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians fell apart more than a year ago over disagreements on the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
In September, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made a bid for the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state, a move Israel called premature without direct talks to address its long-standing security concerns.
In November, King Abdullah made a rare visit to the Palestinian political capital of Ramallah in the West Bank, followed by a meeting in Amman a week later with Israeli President Shimon Peres.