Biden hosts Jordan's king amid tough choices in Mideast

AP , Monday 19 Jul 2021

King Abdullah is also set to have a working breakfast Tuesday with Vice President Kamala Harris and to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken

US President Joe Biden and King Abdullah II of Jordan
US President Joe Biden and King Abdullah II of Jordan

President Joe Biden is set to host King Abdullah II of Jordan during one of the most difficult moments of the Jordanian leader's 22-year rule and at a pivotal time in the Middle East for Biden.

Abdullah arrives Monday afternoon at the White House. Meanwhile, Biden, who has put much of his foreign policy focus on China and Russia in the early going, faces some difficult issues in the Middle East. He is dealing with stepped-up attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-backed militias at the same moment that his administration is trying to nudge Iran back to the negotiating table to revive the nuclear agreement that Donald Trump abandoned during his presidency.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the meeting ``will be an opportunity to discuss the many challenges facing the Middle East and showcase Jordan's leadership role in promoting peace and stability in the region.''

Abdullah had a difficult relationship with Trump, who he saw as undercutting a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians with his 2017 declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Biden has no plans to reverse U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital, and his administration has even offered praise for the Trump-brokered accords _ a rare instance of the Democratic administration speaking positively of the former administration's policy-making.

Biden officials plan to stress to Abdullah that Abraham Accords are not an ``end run`` on finding the way to a peace deal that includes a Palestinian state, according to a senior administration official who was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The two leaders are expected to discuss the situation in Syria _ more than 1 million Syrian refugees have fled the war-ravaged nation for Jordan _ and a wobbly security situation in Iraq, the official said. At least eight drone attacks have targeted the U.S. military presence in Iraq since Biden took office in January, as well as 17 rocket attacks.

Abdullah _ along with Egypt President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi _ visited Iraq in June for talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhim in Baghdad. The Biden administration sees Jordan as a moderate voice in the region that can help ``balance and counter'' some of the more malign influence coming from Iran, the official said.

Abdullah is the first Arab world leader to meet face-to-face with Biden. The president is set to host al-Kadhimi at the White House next week, and Biden has invited Israel's new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, to visit later this summer.

Abdullah is also set to have a working breakfast Tuesday with Vice President Kamala Harris and to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The Oval Office meeting with Biden is also a chance for the king to spotlight his closeness to Biden.

Queen Rania and Crown Prince Hussein are expected to join Abdullah for the White House visit. First lady Jill Biden is to host the queen for tea at the White House.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online. 

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