Jordanian FM makes rare trip to Ramallah for annexation talks

Ayman Safadi meets with Abbas as Jordan pushes against Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank; PA source says international pressure is working

Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi delivers his speech during a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA, conference, in Rome, March 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi delivers his speech during a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA, conference, in Rome, March 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank on Thursday, amid tensions with Israel over its annexation plans for parts of the territory.

Safadi traveled by helicopter for the rare trip to Ramallah, headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, Abbas’s office told AFP.

The talks were to focus on Israel’s plans to annex settlements in the West Bank as well as the strategic Jordan Valley, areas slated to be part of the Jewish state under US President Donald Trump’s peace plan.

Quoting a Palestinian diplomatic source ahead of the meeting, the Haaretz daily said Safadi would brief Abbas on talks Jordan’s King Abdullah II held with Arab leaders on annexation, including a phone call Wednesday with UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas heads a leadership meeting at his headquarters, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 19, 2020. (Alaa Badarneh/Pool via AP)

According to the source, the PA believes the pressure on Israel and the Trump administration concerning annexation is beginning to work, noting the growing receptiveness to Jordan’s position. The source also pointed to the divides in the new Israeli government between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz on the issue, with the latter reportedly wary the move could damage relations with Jordan

Netanyahu has pledged to begin the annexation process from July 1, prompting Jordan to warn that it would review ties.

Jordan and Egypt are the only Arab states to have peace agreements with Israel.

Abdullah this week raised his opposition with members of the US Congress, telling them annexation is “unacceptable and undermines chances of peace and stability in the region.”

In the online meeting, Abdullah underlined the importance of “establishing an independent, sovereign and viable Palestinian state,” according to a palace statement.

Washington’s peace plan foresees the eventual creation of a Palestinian state but disregards key Palestinian demands such as a capital in East Jerusalem, which is also seen as fundamental by Jordan.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II (R) is greeted by US President Donald Trump at the White House on June 25, 2018. (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

Safadi’s visit to Ramallah is the first by a high-level foreign official since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which shut borders across the world.

Germany’s top diplomat traveled to Israel earlier this month without visiting Ramallah, instead speaking to PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh by video link from the Jordanian capital Amman. A Haaretz report at the time said Israeli officials told Heiko Maas he would have to quarantine for two weeks in Israel if he visited Ramallah, though he didn’t have to do so after landing at Ben Gurion Airport.

Also Thursday, the European Union’s foreign policy chief warned annexation would “inevitably have significant consequences for the close relationship” the bloc has with Israel.

In a statement from the EU, Josep Borrell said such a step “would negatively affect regional stability, our relations with Israel and between Israel and Arab states, and potentially the security of Israel.”

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks during a media conference after a meeting of EU foreign ministers by videoconference at the European Council building in Brussels on June 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, Pool)

Though he said he won’t “prejudge the specific impact,” he stressed “the European Union has its own obligations and responsibilities under international and European Union law.”

Borrell acknowledged there is a lack of “unanimity” among European nations on what would be the appropriate response, but added there is a “strong majority” against any unilateral action that will harm the prospects of a two-state solution.

He said he has relayed the EU’s concerns in talks with Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, as well as with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Along with Arab states, the EU has been one of the most vocal opponents of Netanyahu’s annexation pledge.

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