Amid diplomatic chill, Rivlin said in talks for state visit to Jordan

Amid diplomatic chill, Rivlin said in talks for state visit to Jordan

Reports of trip come after president meets Jordanian officials in London to discuss development of Christian holy sites along the Jordan River

President Reuven Rivlin speaks during a climate conference in Tel Aviv on November 24, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
President Reuven Rivlin speaks during a climate conference in Tel Aviv on November 24, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Talks are underway to schedule an official visit for President Reuven Rivlin to Jordan amid rapidly deteriorating ties between Amman and Jerusalem, according to reports in Hebrew media on Thursday.

Rivlin, whose post is largely ceremonial, met Wednesday in London with Prince Ghazi bin Mohammed, chief adviser for Religious and Cultural Affairs and personal envoy to King Abdullah II of Jordan, along with other Jordanian officials, the President’s Residence announced earlier Thursday.

In a statement, the president’s spokesman said that the meeting was held “in the spirit of open and productive dialogue” and featured a discussion of the development of Christian holy sites along the Jordan River, which flows along the border between the two countries.

Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab states that have formal peace treaties and diplomatic relations with Israel.

Last week, King Abdullah II said that relations between Jordan and Israel, which signed a landmark peace treaty 25 years ago, were at “at an all time low.” Despite a quarter-century of diplomatic ties, many Jordanians still see Israel as an enemy and senior leaders on both sides have indicated disappointment with how relations have developed.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II, second right, tours an enclave formerly leased by Israel with Crown Prince Hussein and military officers, November 11, 2019. (Yousef Allan/Jordanian Royal Court via AP)

Tensions between the two nations have mounted in recent years over such issues as the contested status of Jerusalem and its holy sites, stalled peace talks with the Palestinians, and the 2017 shooting of two Jordanian citizens by an Israeli embassy guard in Amman, which ignited a diplomatic crisis.

In September, the speaker of Jordan’s lower house of parliament warned that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to annex a key part of the West Bank if re-elected could put the peace treaty with Israel “at stake.”

Foreign Minister Israel Katz recently said Israel had sought to stage a joint event to commemorate the current 25th anniversary of its peace agreement with Jordan, but Amman refused. Netanyahu has publicly asserted that there as never a “real reconciliation” between Israel and Jordan.

Last weekend, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said that his country was not fully reaping the “peace dividend” that was expected to accompany the establishment of diplomatic ties and suggested that Israel was not honoring arrangements concerning Christian and Muslim sites in Jerusalem’s Old City. His comments came several days after Jordan’s first ambassador to Israel, who subsequently served as the kingdom’s foreign minister, said that Amman must reexamine its peace accord and ties with Jerusalem, claiming the Jewish state could be planning a mass expulsion of millions of Palestinians.

Earlier this month, Amman terminated annexes to the peace treaty that had created special arrangements for Israeli farmers to continue to work lands in two enclaves — Naharayim and Tzofar — that were technically on Jordanian territory.

On Monday, Jordanian Ambassador Ghassan Majali returned to Tel Aviv, several weeks after being recalled by Amman. Majali was recalled on October 30 to protest Israel’s detainment of two Jordanian nationals.

Israel held Heba al-Labadi, 32, and Abdel Rahman Miri, 29, for approximately two months without charge, but released them to Jordan in early November as part of a deal to restore the ambassador. Israeli authorities had suspected Labadi and Miri of maintaining ties to terror groups.

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