Jordan's King presses Bush on Mideast peace issues

Azerbaijan, Baku/ Trend / ( AFP ) - Jordan's King Abdullah II pressed US President George W. Bush Tuesday to step up Middle East peace efforts and told him Israel must ease limits on Palestinian movement, Jordan's embassy said.

In talks and a dinner at the White House, the king also told Bush that a Saudi-inspired Arab peace plan "has clearly demonstrated the Arab will for peace and coexistence with Israel," the embassy said in a statement.

The visiting monarch "asserted Israel's responsibility for taking confidence-building steps, including an end to all settlement activities," according to the statement.

"The King said that there is an immediate need to ease restrictions on Palestinian people's movement and release all tax returns now held by Israel to the Palestinian National Authority," it said.

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe declined to comment in detail, insisting that the meeting and subsequent dinner were "private."

"President Bush enjoyed his dinner with His Majesty King Abdullah. As the President said last week, he remains committed to two states, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security," he said.

The talks came roughly one week after Bush rolled out a new Middle East peace initiative, calling for moderate Arab nations to reach out to Israel, shore up beleaguered Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, and join an international conference to jumpstart political progress.

"King Abdullah urged the US to intensify its efforts in the coming weeks and months, particularly after Bush's recent call for an international meeting to advance the peace process," according to Jordan's statement.

"The King said that a just and comprehensive peace to which the Arab people aspire should emanate from a solution that addresses all outstanding issues between the Palestinians and Israel, including final status issues," it said.

Bush "expressed the US' commitment to support efforts to establish regional peace and stability on the basis of a two-state solution and said the US appreciated Jordan's efforts to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the region," it said.

The two leaders also discussed Iraq, with the king citing Jordan's efforts to help bolster its neighbor's "security and unity" and emphasizing the importance of broad-based national reconciliation efforts.

The king came to Washington as Jordan and Egypt, the only two Arab countries to have signed peace treaties with Israel, worked at the 22-member Arab League's request to win Israel's backing for an Arab peace plan.

The blueprint offers the Jewish state normalization of ties with Arab nations in exchange for full withdrawal from Arab land occupied during the 1967 Six Day War, the creation of a Palestinian state and a return of refugees.

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