The United States on Thursday welcomed the meeting in Amman between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
Netanyahu’s trip was kept under wraps until the last minute. The two leaders reportedly discussed the ongoing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Speaking to reporters later Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Americans had been aware of the meeting.
“As you know, the Jordanians play an incredibly important and influential role, and they have historically, in the peace process as prominent members of the Arab League,” she said. “The Secretary has briefed King Abdullah and Foreign Minister Judeh countless times about what is happening on the ground. So we see that as a productive development.”
Psaki said she was not aware if the meeting had been facilitated by the United States, but said that “it’s not surprising, given the important role they play. And certainly, we encourage that.”
“We certainly were aware that they were planning to meet,” she stressed.
The meeting between the two came as the issue of the Jordan Valley has become one of the key points of contention in the Israel-PA talks.
The PA insists on full control of the Jordan Valley – along with all other land that was under Jordanian control from 1948 to 1967 – while Israeli experts have warned that the area is strategically critical.
Recent reports indicated that Secretary of State John Kerry was pushing the sides to agree to a deal that involves a slow transition from IDF patrols over the region to PA forces, with an international presence, according to reports. IDF drones would also be deployed over the area, as a means of gathering information about any terrorist activity that could potentially develop there.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has insisted that in the event that Israel withdrew from Judea and Samaria, as per Kerry's plans, the Jordan Valley be kept under Israeli control.
King Abdullah’s reign has been characterized by a cooling of relations with Israel. In 2010, he said Jordan’s relationship with Israel had hit “an all-bottom low,” and argued that Jordan was better off before making peace with Israel.
In recent years, cooperation between Abdullah and Netanyahu appears to have improved slightly in recent years. In an interview last March, Abdullah described their working relationship as “very strong.”