Kerry starts talks on Jerusalem unrest with Jordan, Israel

AFP, Reuters, Thursday 13 Nov 2014

US Secretary John Kerry speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and King Abdullah II of Jordan in Amman, Jordan on November 13, 2014. (Photo: Courtesy of the US State Department)

US Secretary of State John Kerry began tripartite talks Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan's king Abdullah aimed at calming growing unrest in Jerusalem, a US official said.

The meeting at King Abdullah II's palace in Amman followed talks between the top US diplomat and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on the surging tensions.

Earlier, Abdullah accused Israel of "repeated attacks" on holy sites in Jerusalem and said they must stop.

East Jerusalem has been gripped by unrest for months , largely triggered by Palestinian fears that Israel was poised to allow Jewish prayer at Al-Aqsa mosque.

The meeting indicates concerns that the Israeli violence over the holy sites could lead to a new Palestinian uprising and complicate Jordan's role in the US-led coalition battling the Islamic State militant group.

Unrest has flared in the past few weeks over Jerusalem's most sacred and politically sensitive site, revered by Muslims as Noble Sanctuary, where al-Aqsa mosque stands.

The three-way meeting in the Jordanian capital aims to "focus on ways to restore calm and de-escalate tensions in Jerusalem," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

Kerry, who added stop in Amman to the end of a trip to Europe, China and other Middle Eastern cities, conferred in Amman earlier on Thursday with the Jordanian monarch, who has stewardship over the al-Aqsa compound, and with Abbas.

A palace statement quoted Abdullah as telling Kerry: "Israel must end its unilateral steps and its repeated attacks on the holy sanctities in city of Jerusalem and especially those that target the Noble Sanctuary and the Aqsa mosque."

Jordan last week recalled its ambassador to Israel in protest, the first time it had done so since the two countries signed a peace treaty in 1994.

Netanyahu's visit to Amman will be his first since January. His office declined comment on the meeting. He has blamed Palestinians in the West Bank for fomenting violence.

Jordanian officials fear wider unrest in the West Bank could spill over into their own country, where a majority of the population are descendents of Palestinians who fled across the river Jordan following the creation of Israel in 1948.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online. 

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