Jordan’s King Abdullah will meet US President Joe Biden in Washington on Friday amid tensions with Israel over the management of Jerusalem’s Islamic and Christian holy sites.
Although Jordan is a custodian of those sites under a 1994 peace treaty with the Jewish state, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett recently announced his rejection of any foreign involvement on the management of the al-Aqsa mosque complex.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, who is accompanying Abdullah on his US visit, described the meeting with Biden as “important to discuss regional issues”. The talks will also cover Jerusalem and its holy sites, as well as the recent terrorist attacks in Israel centered on the West Bank.
The pending meeting between Abdullah and Biden comes nearly six weeks after the king held talks with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Amman on regional issues. Herzog’s visit to Jordan marked the first official visit by an Israeli head of state.
Speaking to Sky News Arabia, Safadi outlined Jordan’s position that “any measure that violates the status quo in Jerusalem is legally void,” calling for any change in Jordan’s continued guardianship of Muslim and Christian holy sites. By rejecting. Dawood Kuttab, a Palestinian journalist and analyst in Amman, told VOA that any change would be a violation in three cases. The first is the status quo agreement by the Ottoman Sultan Osman III in 1757 that governed relations between all faith groups in Jerusalem.
“A breach of the status quo accord, the 1757 Compromise, which has survived the early years of Turkish, British, and Jordanian occupation,” Kuttab said. “Second, it is a breach of understanding [former Israeli prime minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, King Abdullah, and [former U.S. Secretary of State] John Kerry in 2014, stating that al-Aqsa is for Muslims to pray and for all others to come. And this contradicts the Israeli foreign minister, who said that Israel respects the status quo at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Foreign Minister Safdi also urged Israel to maintain peace around those places, particularly the al-Aqsa mosque complex, known by Jews as Temple Mount.
As custodian of the complex, Jordan seeks to de-escalate tensions between Israel and the Palestinians and has been heavily involved in efforts to maintain peace there. But there have been repeated violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police in the region.
Palestinian terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad also recently fueled tensions by calling for an intensification of attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which coincides with Passover and Easter this year.
On Monday, King Abdullah met with Christian leaders in New York. Journalist Kuttab noted that the king underscored the importance of Jordan’s custody of Jerusalem’s holy sites.
“He reaffirmed support for the king’s efforts to protect both Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem and respect his understanding of the status quo,” Kuttab said.
On the same day, King Abdullah and Queen Rania received an award from the Road to Peace Foundation of the Vatican Mission to the United Nations. It recognizes their role in promoting interreligious dialogue and working for peace, and Jordan’s humanitarian efforts in hosting refugees.