Jordan's King has stressed to the United States' Defence Secretary that increased violence in the Occupied West Bank risks further regional instability, amid speculations of further Israeli settler attacks leading up to the holy month of Ramadan.
During US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin's visit to the Hashemite Kingdom yesterday, which marked the beginning of a Middle East tour that will include Israel and Egypt, Jordanian King Abdullah told him that "There is a need for calm and to reduce escalation in Palestinian territories and stop any unilateral steps that undermined stability and abort chances of attaining peace", according to a statement by the Palace.
He also emphasised the importance of accelerating efforts to establish a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace deal based on a two-state solution, which Jordan had aimed to work towards in its hosting of a conference in its southern port city, Aqaba, last week.
That first Israeli-Palestinian meeting at the Red Sea location – in which top American and Egyptian officials participated – has been criticised as ineffective and lacking in results, as any agreements were technically non-binding, especially on the Israeli side.
The parties simply "agreed to continue meeting under this formula", according to the closing statement, and to "maintain positive momentum and expand this agreement towards a wider political process leading to a just and lasting peace".
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According to a Jordanian official who spoke to Reuters, King Abdullah also expressed concerns to Austin over the increased activity of Iran-backed militias in southern Syria, which continue to carry out narcotics smuggling operations across the Syrian-Jordanian border and which regularly enable such supplies to reach Gulf nations. In order to further combat those operations, Amman reportedly requests the provision of more US military aid to strengthen Jordan's border security.
Austin will reportedly raise King Abdullah's concerns regarding the increase in Israeli military and settler violence in the West Bank during his visit to Israel this week. The primary reason for the Defence Secretary's trip to the region, however, is to "reaffirm the US commitment to regional stability and advancing the shared interests of our allies and partners", as he stated on Twitter prior to his departure.
That reaffirming of American commitment is specifically against the threat of Iran in the region, according to the US Defence Department, which highlighted the need to advance security cooperation between Washington and its regional allies.
Central to discussions, the Pentagon quoted a senior defence official as saying, will be the "full constellation of Iran-associated threats", which include "Iran's arming, training and funding of violent proxy groups, aggression at sea, cyber threats, its ballistic missile program and drone attacks". That will also include ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, in which Tehran is providing arms and drones to Moscow.
The official also said, unsurprisingly, that Austin "will reaffirm his ironclad commitment to Israel['s] security, and Israel's inherent right to self-defence". He did point out, however, that he will "also be quite frank with Israeli leaders about his concerns regarding the cycle of violence in the West Bank and consult on what steps Israeli leaders can take to meaningfully restore calm before the upcoming holidays."
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