Jordan’s King Abdullah voiced concern on Sunday to US Vice President Mike Pence over a decision by Washington to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying East Jerusalem had to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.
In remarks during talks with Pence in Amman, the king said the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a two-state one.
“The US decision on Jerusalem ...does not come as a result of a comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” the monarch told Pence at the start of the talks in the royal palace.
Pence, in turn, tried to reassure the monarch that the Trump administration remains committed to restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and views Jordan as a central player.
Jordan lost East Jerusalem and the West Bank to Israel during the Arab-Israeli war in 1967.
Pence was in Amman on the second leg of a three-country tour that concludes in Israel.
In comments delivered in Egypt, he said that "the United States of America remains committed, if the parties agree, to a two-state solution."
Last month’s endorsement of Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its capital by President Donald Trump infuriated the Palestinians, who seek the Israeli-annexed eastern sector of the city as a future capital. They accused the US of siding with Israel and said Washington can no longer serve as a mediator.
It also broke with decades of US policy that the city’s status must be decided in negotiations with the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Pence told the king that Washington was committed to preserving the status quo of holy sites in Jerusalem.
“We take no decision on boundaries and final status, those are subject to negotiation,” he said.
Pence’s is the highest-level visit by a US official to the region since Trump made his declaration on Jerusalem last month.
Jordanian officials fear Washington’s move on Jerusalem had also wrecked chances of a resumption of Arab-Israeli peace talks which the monarch had sought to revive.
King Abdullah expressed concerns about the regional fallout from the Jerusalem decision, stressing that it would fuel radicalism and inflame Muslim and Christian tensions.
"Today we have a major challenge to overcome, especially with some of the rising frustrations," he said. He described the Pence visit as a mission "to rebuild trust and confidence" in getting to a two-state solution, in which a state of Palestine would be established in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in 1967.
Another cause of concern for Jordan is the Trump administration's decision to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Jordan vehemently opposes such a move if taken ahead of an Israeli-Palestinian partition deal.
King Abdullah’s Hashemite dynasty is the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, making Amman sensitive to any changes of status of the disputed city.
“For us, Jerusalem is key to Muslims and Christians, as it is to Jews. It is key to peace in the region,” he said.
Jordanian officials are further worried the move could trigger violence in the Palestinian territories and a spillover into Jordan, a country where many people are descendants of Palestinian refugees whose families left after the creation of Israel in 1948.