West Bank Violence Threatens Stability, Jordan’s King Tells Austin

The surge in West Bank violence threatens regional stability, Jordan’s King Abdullah told US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Sunday, calling for more efforts to create a political horizon to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Austin’s visit to Jordan is part of his Middle East tour aimed at showing support for the US main regional allies against the growing threat posed by Iran, which will also take him to Israel and Egypt later this week.

Prior to his departure to meet key leaders in the region, US Defense Secretary wrote on Twitter that he would reaffirm Washington’s commitment to regional stability and advancing the shared interests of the US allies and partners.

In a separate tweet, Austin emphasized the strength of the enduring and strategic partnership between the United States and Jordan and noted he looks forward to collaborating on shared interests that will result in positive outcomes for both nations.

After Jordan hosted the first Israeli-Palestinian meeting towards this goal in Aqaba last week with the participation of top US and Egyptian officials, King Abdullah stressed the need for calm and for reducing escalation in Palestinian territories and stopping any unilateral steps that abort chances of attaining peace and undermined stability.

He pointed out that efforts must be accelerated to bring about a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace deal based on a two-state solution, a palace statement said after the talks between the king and Austin.

Jordanian officials said that King Abdullah also asked for Washington’s assistance to fight a growing drug war along its borders with Syria- the kingdom has a roughly 375 km-long border with its neighbor- blamed on Iranian-backed militias.

Jordan’s king expressed concerns over the growing entrenchment of Iranian-backed militias in southern Syria which, in its efforts to reach markets in the Gulf, have significantly stepped up drug-smuggling operations through its borders.

Since the more than decade-long conflict began, Washington has given around $1 billion to establish border posts at the Jordan-Syria border and Amman now wants more US military aid to bolster security there.

As the US Defense Department announced ahead of the visit, the discussions between the US Defense Secretary and King Abdullah have also focused on the expansion of the already strong military cooperation between the two countries, though central to the discussion was the full constellation of Iran-associated threats.

In a show of support for Washington’s main regional allies, Austin will also visit Egypt and Israel, where he’ll raise concerns about the West Bank violence in that has alarmed Arab leaders and discuss diplomatic efforts to reduce tensions ahead of Muslim and Jewish religious holidays.

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