King Abdullah to Pay First Visit to Israel
Jordan's King Abdullah II will pay his first visit to Israel on April 23 in an attempt to advance the stalled Middle East peace process, a senior Jordanian official said Sunday.
"This visit is part of contacts made by the Hashemite sovereign in an effort to get the peace process going again," the official, who asked not to be identified, said.
"Abdullah II initially planned to go to autonomous Palestinian territory this week before traveling to Israel. He will go there after Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's trip to Washington" on April 20, the official said.
Jordan's King Abdullah II held talks in Cairo, Sunday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the latest developments in the Arab-Israeli peace process, officials said.
The king later returned to Jordan without making any statement.
Mubarak had been expected to brief Abdullah on his meeting in Washington with US President Bill Clinton at the end of March.
The two Arab leaders were also to have exchanged views on how to revive the troubled peace process, which is facing a stalemate on the Palestinian and Syrian tracks.
The visit comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity in the region linked to Israeli plans to carry out a unilateral military withdrawal from Lebanon by July.
King Abdullah also met in Amman later in the day for talks with visiting Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who is touring the region.
Palestinian officials have been increasing their contacts with Jordan.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdel Ilah Khatib met Mahmud Abbas, the second in command of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Saturday and they discussed the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
The official added that Palestinian international cooperation minister Nabil Shaath is expected to come to Amman Monday.
Khatib also held talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara during the Group of 77 meeting in Havana, which ended Friday.
Other contacts include King Abdullah's meeting April 4 with US Defense Secretary William Cohen in Amman April 4 and the monarch's telephone conversations with other US officials.
He also visited Oslo and Brussels last week and met EU officials.
The king initially planned to visit Israel in February but put off his trip because of massive Israeli retaliatory raids in Lebanon that damaged the electrical infrastructure and the impasse in the Palestinian and Syrian tracks of the peace process.
However, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak visited King Abdullah in Amman February 6 – (Several Sources)
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