Abdullah II warns Olmert, Barak: Gaza action could snowball into Jordanian instability

Jordan’s King Abdullah warned Israeli leaders this week that a military offensive in Gaza would destabilize the region, a Jordanian political source said Thursday.

The source said the monarch urgently summoned Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak for secret talks in Amman on Tuesday.

“His majesty warned [Israel] against any escalation of military operations and said these measures will not bring Israel the security it seeks,” the source, who was familiar with the talks, told Reuters.
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“Any unilateral Israeli action in Gaza would fuel regional tension,” he also quoted Abdullah as saying. “The key to stability in the region is Palestinian-Israeli peace.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also met Abdullah on Thursday in the Red Sea port of Aqaba after the king invited him for talks as part of stepped up diplomacy to avert wider bloodshed in Gaza. Hamas forcefully took control of Gaza from Abbas’s Fatah faction a year ago.

Gunmen from Gaza have fired dozens of rockets at Israel in the past two weeks after Israel launched raids that have killed about a dozen gunmen, and closed crossing points with Gaza, choking off some food supplies to the coastal territory.

Earlier an Israeli political source, confirming Israeli radio stations’ reports about Tuesday’s meeting, said King Adullah asked Israeli leaders to refrain from a large-scale incursion into the Gaza Strip.

The source said Olmert declined to give a guarantee, saying Israel “cannot restrain itself for long” and might invade Gaza if militants continued firing rockets into Israel.

Israel has had full diplomatic ties with Jordan since 1994 but some high-level talks are not announced in advance largely for security reasons.

The monarch also urged the Israeli leaders in the meeting to “stop all unilateral action and take immediate measures to end the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza.”

Jordanian officials say ties with Israel have recently been hurt by a perception that Israel was not serious about a peace accord that would give Palestinians a state, citing expanding settlement building on occupied Palestinian land.

Israeli media, without disclosing their sources, said the monarch told the Israeli leaders he feared an Israeli invasion of Gaza could cause casualties that might threaten his rule.

Olmert said “there may not be any choice” but to invade Hamas-ruled Gaza if rocket fire into Israel from the coastal strip persisted, but Barak told Jordan Israel was interested in continuing an Egyptian-brokered truce, the Israeli source said.

The growing cross-border violence between Israel and Hamas-ruled Gaza has threatened a cease-ire which has been in force since mid-June.

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