JERASH, Jordan (AP) — Britain’s Prince William on Monday toured the ruins of the Roman city of Jerash and met with children, including Syrian refugees, from a UN-run education program on the second day of a five-day Mideast tour that will also take him to Israel and the West Bank.
The 36-year-old William was accompanied by Crown Prince Hussein, 23, with whom he watched England’s World Cup match against Panama at his host’s residence late on Sunday.
It’s a high-profile, politically delicate foreign trip for William, second in line to the throne, and comes at a time of widening rifts between Israelis and Palestinians.
He will be the first member of the royal family to visit Israel and the West Bank in an official capacity, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will loom large, despite the ceremonial nature of the visit. That part of his Mideast trip begins later on Monday.
William, an avid soccer fan, arrived in Jordan on Sunday afternoon, at a time when the England-Panama game was under way. Hussein recorded it for him, and the two watched it later Sunday on a huge TV screen at the crown prince’s residence. England thrashed Panama 6-1, advancing to the second round.
Before settling down to soccer, William spoke at a garden reception at the British Embassy, praising Britain’s historic ties with Jordan and the kingdom’s commitment to hosting Syrian and Palestinian refugees.
Over decades, Jordan has taken in waves of refugees, most recently those fleeing civil war in Syria. Jordan hosts about 660,000 registered Syrian refugees, but says the actual number of displaced Syrians in the kingdom is twice as high.
Jordanian government officials on Monday were quoted as saying that Jordan could not absorb more refugees. The comments came as Syrian government forces advanced in southern Syria, near Jordan’s border, leading to more displacement.
William met Monday with dozens of children attending a UN-run education program, known as Makani, that serves Syrian refugees as well as Jordanian children from overburdened host communities.
The children greeted the prince in the amphitheater of the Roman city of Jerash, where they showed him some of their artwork. The ruins of Jerash are one of Jordan’s main tourist attractions.
William’s wife, the former Kate Middleton, visited the archaeological site as a child when her father worked for British Airways and the family lived in Jordan for close to three years in the 1980s. A Middleton family photo shows Kate in Jerash with her father and younger sister Pippa.
The prince has said the Middletons have fond memories of their time in Jordan, and that Kate was sorry she couldn’t join him on the trip to the kingdom. Kate gave birth in April to the couple’s third child, Louis.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.