John Kerry meets with Jordan’s King Abdullah in push for Mideast peace deal

With weeks to go before his deadline for Middle East peacemaking, Secretary of State John F. Kerry conferred Friday with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in hopes of advancing a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Abdullah is partly a broker for Kerry’s year-long push to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jordan has a peace treaty and cordial relations with Israel, hosts a large population of Palestinian refugees and holds influence with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abdullah’s small nation also abuts both Israel and the West Bank territory that would make up most of a future Palestinian state.

He hosted Kerry at a palace in this Red Sea resort city. Reporters accompanying Kerry on a trip to Ukraine, France and Italy this week were not allowed to go with him to the palace for the previously unannounced visit.

Kerry is trying to get Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to an outline for a final peace deal by the end of April.

The outline is a high hurdle for both sides, since it would mean making public compromises on issues such as borders and the future of Jerusalem. Months of detailed work to finalize a treaty would follow.

Netanyahu met with President Obama last week. Abbas will come to the White House on March 17.

Abbas has signaled that he may not agree to Kerry’s plan, and expectations are dropping for what was always a long shot.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh flew to Aqaba with Kerry from Rome.

In Ramallah, Abbas indicated that a wide gulf remains between him and Netanyahu, saying there was “no way” he would recognize Israel as a Jewish state and accept a Palestinian capital in just a portion of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, the Associated Press reported. The comments rebuffed what Palestinians fear will be key elements of a U.S. peace proposal.

Speaking to youth activists of his Fatah party, Abbas suggested he would stand firm over the Israeli demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

“They are pressing and saying, ‘no peace without the Jewish state,’ ” the AP reported he said. “There is no way. We will not accept.”

Anne Gearan is The Washington Post's diplomatic correspondent.
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