Wed, Dec 20, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Jordan offers to host Palestinian talks

AP , AMMAN

Jordan's King Abdullah II yesterday offered to host talks between the Palestinian president and the leader of Hamas to resolve the bloody confrontation between their factions.

Abdullah's call came after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made a surprise visit to the Jordanian capital and held talks with the monarch for talks on reviving the Israeli-Palestinians peace process.

At the same time, fierce fighting erupted in Gaza City between Fatah and Hamas fighters, killing at least four people and wrecking a tenuous truce.

"Jordan is willing to do all it can to help the Palestinians overcome their differences and to bolster Palestinian unity," a statement from the royal palace said. "All options are open, including a call for a meeting in Amman between Palestinian leader [Mahmoud Abbas] and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh [of Hamas]."

The discussions will focus on "ways to end the political crisis between their Hamas and Fatah movements," the statement added.

Abdullah invited Olmert for the previously unannounced talks, which the palace said focused on ways to revive Palestinian-Israeli peacemaking.

In Jerusalem, Olmert's office confirmed the meeting, saying the leaders discussed the Palestinian crisis and larger regional issues.

The monarch has said a return to Arab-Israeli negotiations is vital to curb rising extremism in the Middle East, fueled by the conflict in Iraq. He has called on Washington to concentrate more on reviving the peace process, which is stalled amid a Palestinian leadership crisis.

The royal palace official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the visit, said Olmert's visit lasted two hours and the Israeli leader later returned home.

The king hosted Olmert and Abbas in June in an effort to get both leaders to open direct negotiations, but the effort failed.

Hamas and Fatah have been locked in a power struggle since the Islamic group defeated Fatah in legislative elections in January. A wave of factional fighting has left Gaza on the brink of chaos after Abbas on Saturday called for new polls, which Hamas has rejected.

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