Jordan’s King Abdullah II meets US President Joe Biden at the White House for talks Monday on resolving the Israel-Hamas conflict, as fears grow of an offensive in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah.
Amman is a key player in the region and the king is also visiting Canada, France and Germany, amid mounting international efforts for a deal to pause fighting in Gaza and free hostages there.
“They will discuss efforts to produce an enduring end to the crisis,” a senior Biden administration official told reporters on Sunday, ahead of the meeting.
A deal “requires as a precondition the return of hostages held by Hamas, and then of course, looking ahead at durable long-term peace requires a formula for two states with Israel’s security guaranteed.”
The US president and First lady Jill Biden will welcome the Jordanian king and Queen Rania to the White House at 2:30pm (1930 GMT), before the two heads of state deliver remarks at 4:00 pm.
The visit comes as weeks of talks involving the United States and regional powers have so far failed to produce a ceasefire and hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas.
It also comes as Biden takes a harder line with Israel, particularly after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to send ground troops into the crowded Rafah area to finish his goal of eliminating Hamas.
Biden told Netanyahu on Sunday that a Rafah advance should not go ahead without a “credible” plan to ensure “the safety” of around one million people sheltering there, the White House said.
‘Over the top’
On Thursday, Biden also said Israel’s response in the Gaza Strip had been “over the top,” in his most pointed comments yet after months of largely uncritical support for Israel.
Monday’s meeting will be the first time Biden and Abdullah have met since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel triggered the Gaza conflict.
The bloodiest-ever Gaza war broke out after Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
Israel has responded with a relentless bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza that the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry says has killed at least 28,340 people, mostly women and children.
Biden was meant to travel to Jordan for talks with Abdullah when he visited Israel less than two weeks after the initial attack, but the meeting was canceled after an explosion at a Gaza hospital caused anger across the Arab world.
Biden later backed Israel’s account that the strike was caused by a malfunctioning Palestinian rocket.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Abdullah in Amman in January. The Jordanian monarch urged the top diplomat to push for a ceasefire in Gaza and end the humanitarian crisis there.
In Amman, a royal palace statement said Washington would be the first stop for Abdullah on a tour of the United States, Canada, France and Germany to discuss the situation in Gaza.
He will meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa, French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris and several European officials in Germany, where he will attend the annual Munich Security Conference, the statement said.
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