Hamas leader meets Jordan's king; first official visit since 1999

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal is shown during a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II on Sunday in Amman.

Story highlights

  • Khaled Meshaal meets with King Abdullah II in Amman
  • It's his first official visit since Jordan expelled Hamas in the 1990s
  • Abdullah is attempting to broker new Israeli-Palestinian peace talks
  • Israel, Palestinians point fingers over the latest impasse
The exiled leader of the Palestinian Islamic faction Hamas met with Jordan's King Abdullah II on Sunday in his first official trip to Jordan since his expulsion in 1999.
In a statement issued by Hamas, Khaled Meshaal expressed his appreciation to the king for supporting Palestinians.
"Any future meetings between Hamas and Jordan open a new page between the two sides and serve the Palestinian cause," said Meshaal, who announced earlier this month that he would not seek another term as president of the movement's governing body.
The meeting comes as Abdullah is making a high-profile attempt to broker new peace talks in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hamas, which the United States and the European Union consider a terrorist organization, controls the Palestinian territory of Gaza and refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist.
Meshaal met with Abdullah and the crown prince of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, Jordan's state news agency Petra reported. Abdullah reaffirmed his support for a Palestinian state based on the borders drawn before the 1967 Middle East war, "with East Jerusalem as its capital," Petra reported.
Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its own capital, and its ultimate status is one of the most contentious points in the talks. But Abdullah also called negotiations "the sole means to regain Palestinian rights," a stance Israel and the United States have supported as Palestinian leaders seek recognition of an independent Palestine at the United Nations.
And Petra said Meshaal called the meetings "a new opening" after 12 years, stating Hamas respected "Jordan's security, stability and interests."
Jordan kicked the leadership of Hamas out of the country in 1999 after accusing it of breaking a deal to restrict its activity to politics. The movement has maintained a headquarters in Syria's capital Damascus since then, receiving financial and military support from the governments of Hafez al-Assad and his successor, his son Bashar.
But Hamas has been distancing itself from its long-time patron as Syria battles a 10-month-old popular uprising against al-Assad. Hamas personnel and their families have left Syria in recent weeks, and Ismail Haniya, the Hamas leader in Gaza, did not stop in Damascus during a recent regional trip.
Abdullah, meanwhile, told CNN during a recent visit to Washington that he was stepping up to try to restart the stalled Israeli-Palestinian talks. He said his message to President Barack Obama was, "It's up to us to do the heavy lifting ... We can't always have to fall back on the United States to do everything."
But Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, spent Sunday blaming each other for the latest lack of progress. Speaking at the start of his weekly Cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Palestinians "refused to even discuss Israel's security needs with us" in the most recent contacts in Amman.
"Signs are not particularly good," Netanyahu said in comments released by his office. "But I hope that they will come to their senses and continue with the talks in order for us to advance to true negotiations."
But Palestinians have blamed Israel's ongoing construction of settlements in the West Bank, on land the Palestinians consider part of their future state, for the impasse. Senior Palestinian negotiator Mohammad Shtayeh told CNN that the Palestinians presented Israel, Jordan and members of the Mideast Quartet powers with a written document on security and border issues, "and the Israeli side did not present anything in writing as the Quartet requested."
"The Amman talks were about creating a conducive environment for any future talks," Shtayeh said. "But, unfortunately, Israel did not accept to freeze settlement construction, which we consider as destroying confidence measures and an illegal and provocative act which led to the collapse of the talks."
Shtayeh said the Palestinian leadership "will consult with the Arab countries as will re-evaluate the situation with King of Jordan, and upon all of these consultations we will reach a decision on where to go."