At UN, Jordan, Saudi kings back Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as capital

Abdullah II says only a two-state solution can provide genuine security for both sides; Saudi monarch Salman also backs preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons

Screen capture from video of King Abdullah II of Jordan, as he address the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in a pre-recorded message, at UN headquarters, on September 22, 2021. (UN Web TV via AP)
Screen capture from video of King Abdullah II of Jordan, as he address the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in a pre-recorded message, at UN headquarters, on September 22, 2021. (UN Web TV via AP)

The kings of Jordan and Saudi Arabia used their speeches to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday to urge a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by creating a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Jordan’s monarch recalled the 11-days of fighting between Israel and the Gaza Strip earlier this year in his speech before the United Nations, saying the latest round of conflict was a reminder that the status quo is “unsustainable.”

The war in May was the fourth in Gaza since the Hamas Islamic terror group seized power in 2007. There were 13 deaths in Israel, including one soldier as Hamas fired thousands of rockets at the country which responded with intensive airstrikes on terror targets. More than 4,000 homes in Gaza were destroyed or severely damaged. More than 250 people were killed in Gaza, including dozens of children and women, according to the UN. Israel believes roughly half of those killed were combatants.

“But how many more homes will be lost? How many more children will die before the world wakes up?” said King Abdullah, who delivered his pre-recorded remarks remotely to the UN General Assembly, though some 100 heads of state and government are attending in person amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “Genuine security for either side — indeed, for the whole world — can only be achieved through the two-state solution.”

He reiterated that such a solution must result in an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side-by-side with Israel in peace.

The Jordanian king is a close US ally and his nation has custodianship over the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews. The area was the scene of violent confrontations between Israeli security forces and Palestinian worshippers during the last days of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in May.

Saudi Arabia’s monarch used his speech to stress his country’s longstanding public position on Palestinian statehood, saying that lasting peace must guarantee an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Screen capture from a video of Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, King of Saudi Arabia, as he remotely addresses the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in a pre-recorded message, at UN headquarters, September 22, 2021. (UN Web TV via AP)

King Salman bin Abdulaziz also expressed hope that the kingdom’s direct talks with Iran will lead to confidence building as the two bitter regional rivals take small steps toward dialogue following several years of heightened tensions.

Salman made the remarks in a pre-recorded speech delivered to leaders gathered for the UN General Assembly. He said Iran is a neighbor of Saudi Arabia, and that the kingdom hopes talks between the two nations can lead to tangible results that pave the way to achieving the aspirations of the region’s people.

He cautioned, though, that relations must be based on respect of national sovereignty and the cessation of support for sectarian militias.

Relations between Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shiite-ruled Iran hit a low when the Trump administration was exerting maximum pressure on Iran. During those years, Iran was accused of being behind multiple attacks on energy targets in the Persian Gulf— including a stunning strike on an Aramco refinery in 2019— and of supporting Houthi fighters in Yemen, where the kingdom has been at war for more than six years.

In April, news emerged that the rivals had held a first round of talks in Iraq after President Joe Biden’s election. Trump had pulled the US out of a nuclear deal in 2018; Biden said the US wants to return to the pact, though talks have stalled.

The two regional foes met again in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, according to Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency.

The site reported Wednesday that a meeting of foreign ministers and officials from Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan and France took place. The EU foreign policy chief was also in attendance. The meeting was chaired by Iraq’s foreign minister.

Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amirabollahian, was quoted by Mehr as saying the priority of Iran’s new government “is to strengthen and develop relations with its neighbors and the region.” He also met with Finnish, German, Austrian, Swiss and Croatian foreign ministers on Tuesday in New York, according to Mehr.

Newly sworn-in Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has remained in Iran amid the ongoing pandemic. He was severely critical of American policies in his speech delivered remotely to the UN gathering Tuesday, speaking shortly after Biden’s in-person remarks.

King Salman reiterated Saudi concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran insists is for peaceful energy purposes.

He acknowledged “economic difficulties,” but said despite such challenges the kingdom remains a major donor of humanitarian aid and global efforts to combat COVID-19 as a Group of 20 nations. The coronavirus pandemic sent oil prices crashing last year, eating away at the kingdom’s key source of revenue. Saudi Arabia has led major oil producers in a pact to curb production to help support oil prices.

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