German president pushes back against US Jerusalem recognition

German president pushes back against US Jerusalem recognition

Visiting Jordan, Steinmeier questions how Trump’s policy will contribute to peace, reaffirms support for 2-state solution

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (L) meets with Jordan's King Abdullah II in the capital Amman, on January 28, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Khalil MAZRAAWI)
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (L) meets with Jordan's King Abdullah II in the capital Amman, on January 28, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Khalil MAZRAAWI)

Jordan’s king affirmed his support Sunday for establishing a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, highlighting his differences with the Trump administration on a central issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Abdullah II spoke at the start of a meeting with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who also expressed concern about US President Donald Trump’s recognition last month of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“I think there are very good reasons to question the theory that unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would contribute to the consolidation of peace in the Middle East,” Steinmeier was quoted as telling the Jordanian daily Al-Ghad in an interview published Sunday.

One of the pillars of Germany’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “is the need to preserve the status of holy sites and to negotiate the final status of Jerusalem within the framework of the two-state solution,” Steinmeier, a former foreign minister, told Al-Ghad.

Jordan’s monarch serves as custodian of a major Muslim shrine in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem and the kingdom’s Hashemite dynasty derives much of its political legitimacy from its special role in Jerusalem. Jordan is also home to a large Palestinian population.

“I think our views on Palestine and Jerusalem are well-known to you,” the king told the German president Sunday. “We do believe in a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a capital for the Palestinians.”

At the same time, Jordan is a staunch US ally and a major recipient of US economic and military aid.

Abdullah has stopped short of siding with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who said after Trump’s dramatic policy shift on Jerusalem on December 6 that Washington could no longer serve as a mediator between Israelis and Palestinians.

Abdullah is set to meet with Abbas on Monday to discuss the issue of Jerusalem.

US President Donald Trump (right) speaks with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, on January 25, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm)

The king received US Vice President Mike Pence last week, and has said the US remains an indispensable broker.

Trump said his declaration reflected reality on the ground, and was not intended to prejudge any future arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians regarding the disputed city, though he later told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland that he had taken Jerusalem “off the table.”

Trump also told Netanyahu at the global summit that Israel had “won” on the matter but would have to make concessions to the Palestinians in any eventual talks.

Steinmeier is on a four-day visit to Jordan and Lebanon.

On Monday, he is to visit the Azraq camp for Syrian refugees in northern Jordan and a nearby air base by the same name, where some 300 German troops are stationed as part of the US-led international military campaign against Islamic State group extremists in Jordan.

Germany, which has absorbed hundreds of thousands of Syrian war refugees, has stepped up efforts in recent years to help improve conditions for refugees in regional host countries.

About 660,000 registered Syrian refugees live in Jordan, though Jordanian authorities say the actual number is double that.

Germany gave Jordan 595 million euros ($740 million) in bilateral humanitarian and development aid in 2017, up from 470 million euros ($584 million) in 2016, embassy officials have said.

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