King Abdullah II of Jordan said in a television interview Sunday that Jerusalem could be the capital of both Israel and a future Palestinian state.
"When we look at Jerusalem on the political level, I believe Jerusalem has enough room for a Palestinian and Israeli capital," the king told Israeli public television after he returned home Sunday from his first visit to Israel.
"On the religious side, I believe that Jerusalem should be a city for all of us," he said during the interview taped in the garden of his palace in the Red Sea town of Aqaba.
Jerusalem is "an open city, this is what we are trying to achieve, this is the hope for the future of coexistence, of working together and giving hope to our children," he added.
He touched on the role of Jordan in Jerusalem, whose eastern sector it held for nearly 20 years following the departure of the British from Mandatory Palestine.
"Jordan is the custodian of the holy (Muslim) shrines of Jerusalem," he said.
"But we believe that when we look at Jerusalem, it is a symbol of Muslims, Christians and Jews to live in harmony, this is a symbol that we want at the beginning of the new millennium, the hope for the rest of the world if we can achieve it."
Israelis and Palestinians are scheduled to meet for an intensive round of peace talks in the Israeli Red Sea resort town of Eilat next Sunday.
The two sides are trying to meet a May deadline for a framework agreement on the most difficult issues: the status of Jerusalem, the final nature and borders of the Palestinian areas, the future of Palestinian refugees and of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
A mid-February deadline for the framework agreement passed with no accord and little sign of progress on the key issues. But with total deadlock on the Israeli-Syrian front, much of the energy and hope is focused on making progress on the Palestinian track.
However, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has vowed to keep Jerusalem as the eternal, undivided capital of Israel, while Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has sworn to make its eastern sector the capital of a state he plans to declare in September.
JORADAN HAS VITAL INTERESTS IN FINAL STATUS PEACE ACCORDS
According to the king, Jordan has a direct interest in the final-status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. "There are questions that affect us on a daily basis, like security and borders. The refugee issue and Jerusalem are close to our hearts, and the water problem has to be solved at the bilateral, trilateral and regional level."
As if to emphasize the point, while the king met with Barak, his ministers and their Israeli counterparts met to discuss outstanding issues ranging from progress on joint tourism projects like an international airport at Evrona, the border crossing point where the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty was signed by Abdullah's father King Hussein and the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, to the thorny issue of Israel allowing Jordan more trade into the West Bank.
"Land-for-peace has been accepted by all parties since 1991 and must continue to guide us, wherever obstacles in the process emerge," the king said at the red carpet ceremony. "The Palestinian issue is a central one in the Arab-Israeli conflict and I am very hopeful that this year will witness a breakthrough that will give hope to the Palestinians and the justice they seek and to the Israeli people and the security that they desire," the king said, urging progress toward a peace agreement with the Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon.
Faced with persistent questions from Israeli reporters, Barak said the king had brought with him some of his most prominent Cabinet ministers, who had agreed with their Israeli counterparts to future business and government contacts. Barak called Jordan a full partner in peace and both leaders smiled throughout the visit. But Trade Minister Cohen said he found the Jordanians unwilling to expand relations so long as problems remained in existing ties – (Several Sources)
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