Biden, Jordan’s Abdullah agree on need for calm in Jerusalem amid unrest

US president welcomes ‘recent steps to reduce tensions’ at Al-Aqsa mosque; Jordanian monarch calls to increase efforts to reach a two-state solution

(L) US President Joe Biden speaks on July 8, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (R) Jordan's King Abdullah II speaks on May 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)
(L) US President Joe Biden speaks on July 8, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (R) Jordan's King Abdullah II speaks on May 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

US President Joe Biden held a phone call with Jordanian King Abdullah II on Monday amid ongoing tensions in Jerusalem’s Temple Mount compound, and expressed his appreciation for actions taken by the kingdom to de-escalate the situation.

“The president welcomed recent steps to reduce tensions and expressed his hope that the final week of Ramadan will pass peacefully,” the White House said in a statement.

Abdullah stressed the importance of respecting the Al-Aqsa Mosque and noted that his country will continue to take necessary action to protect Jerusalem’s holy sites.

Both leaders agreed on the importance of preserving the status quo at Al-Aqsa.

The conversation also touched on recent violence in Israel and the West Bank, with Biden stressing the importance of continued coordination in order to prevent further terrorist attacks in Israel.

Jordan’s monarch reiterated the need “to increase efforts to reach fair peace based on the legitimate rights of the Palestinians and on the two-state solution.”

Palestinians seen on the holy month of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, on April 17, 2022. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

During their meeting last July, which marked Biden’s first official meeting with a Middle Eastern ally, the US president said he supported the “position of Jordan as protector of the holy sites in Jerusalem.” He added: “You have always been there for us and we’ll always be there for Jordan,” noting that the Middle East was a “rough neighborhood.”

Their Monday phone call came following repeated clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians at the Temple Mount, as the Ramadan and Passover holidays drew thousands of worshipers to Jerusalem’s holy sites.

Clashes have led to escalating diplomatic tensions between Israel and Jordan.

Abdullah has condemned Israel for the clashes, slamming the state for allowing Jewish pilgrims to enter the site and calling on the Israeli government to respect “the historical and legal status quo” there, according to a statement from the Royal Hashemite Court.

The Jordanian Foreign Ministry accused Israel of trying “to change the status quo” at the site, and Jordan’s prime minister Bisher al-Khasawneh hailed Palestinian rioters and used notably hostile language to condemn “Zionist sympathizers” and what he called Israel’s “occupation government.”

Palestinians wrapped in Hamas flags take position near Al-Aqsa Mosque atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, during clashes with Israeli police on April 22, 2022. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, in turn, said he viewed “with utmost severity” comments blaming Israel for the violence and lashed out against “those who are encouraging rock-throwing and the use of violence against the citizens of the State of Israel.”

“The State of Israel will continue to provide for and safeguard the dignity of all of us, to enable everyone to celebrate in Jerusalem,” Bennett said last week.

In a phone call with Biden on Sunday, Bennett updated the president on Israel’s efforts “to stop the violence and incitement in Jerusalem,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

“The president took note of ongoing efforts between Israeli and Palestinian officials to lower tensions and ensure a peaceful conclusion to the holy season of Ramadan,” the White House said.

Biden also accepted an invitation to visit Israel in the coming months.

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