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Jordan king makes rare West Bank visit to meet Palestinian president

King Abdullah II has flown to the West Bank to meet with Palestinian President Abbas for the first time in five years. The trip is being viewed as a message to Israel, particularly over a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site.

Jordan's King Abdullah II flew by helicopter to the West Bank on Monday to hold talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas amid shared tensions with Israel.

Abdullah received a red carpet welcome in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority. He was greeted by Abbas before the two national anthems were played.

The two leaders meet fairly frequently in the Jordanian capital of Amman and other regional capitals, but it was Abdullah's first visit to Ramallah since December 2012.

The king's trip had to be coordinated with Israeli authorities who control all entrance and exit points to the West Bank, including the 150 kilometer (93 mile) border with Jordan and the airspace above it.

Jordan's King Abdullah II is hugged by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

King Abdullah II received a red carpet welcome and a hug from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Signal to Israel

Abdullah's visit comes amid rising Jordanian-Israeli tensions and is seen as a message to Tel Aviv that the Jordanian monarch is aligning with Palestinians on key issues - particularly concerning a contested Jerusalem holy site.

A crisis erupted last month at the Al Aqsa mosque compound when Israel installed metal detectors at Muslim entrances following the killing of two Israeli policemen.

The compound, which sits on a plateau in the Old City, is the third holiest site in Islam and is also revered by the Jews who call it Temple Mount.

Watch video 00:56

Muslim worshippers return to Al Aqsa Mosque for prayer

Read more: Opinion - Tension escalates on the Temple Mount

The security changes led to several days of protests and clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian worshippers.

Tensions peaked on July 23 when an Israeli security guard shot and killed two Jordanians at the Israeli embassy in Amman. Israeli officials say one of the men attacked the security guard with a screwdriver while the other was accidentally shot.

The crisis finally eased on July 27 when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered that the metal detectors be taken down after consultations with Jordan.

Read more: Why Israel censored reporting on the Jordan embassy shooting

Jordan has been the custodian of Jerusalem's Muslim holy sites since the 1920s. The role is also a key component of Abdullah's legitimacy.

Abbas and Abdullah are also likely to discuss a US-led effort to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks which have been on hold for the past three years.

US President Donald Trump's envoy to the region, Jason Greenblatt, has made several trips to Jerusalem, Amman and Ramallah, but there are few signs of interest in restarting negotiations.

rs/se (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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