Israeli president and Jordanian king hold secret talks

The meeting between Isaac Herzog and King Abdullah II in Amman is sign of improving relations between the two states.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog has revealed he met King Abdullah II of Jordan in Amman, an unannounced meeting held against the backdrop of improving diplomatic ties between the two countries.

“Last week I met and had a very long conversation with the king of Jordan, I was in his palace, an entire evening. It was an excellent meeting,” Herzog said in clips from an interview broadcast on Saturday on Israeli television.

The entire interview will be shown on Sunday, the eve of the Jewish new year which begins on Monday evening.

“Jordan is a very important country. I have immense respect for King Abdullah, a great leader and a highly significant regional actor,” Herzog said in a statement issued by his office

The meeting took place at King Abdullah’s palace, with the two leaders discussing a series of political and economic issues including energy and sustainability, according to the statement.

It spoke of a “warm meeting, held at the king’s invitation”, during which the two discussed “deep strategic issues”.

“Among the things we discussed were the core issues in the dialogue between our states, including an agreement to import agricultural produce during the shemitah (agricultural sabbatical) year, energy issues, sustainability, and solutions to the climate crisis that we can advance together,” the statement said.

Mending strained relations

Jordan and Egypt are the only two countries bordering Israel to have signed peace treaties with it.

Israel-Jordan relations deteriorated under the premiership of Benjamin Netanyahu, whom critics accused of neglecting the Hashemite kingdom in favour of agreeing to normalise ties last year with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

Diplomatic relations have also been strained over tensions at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, and Israel’s expansion of illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

However, shortly after he took office in June, new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett flew to Amman for talks with King Abdullah. In the week following, Jordan and Israel signed two breakthrough water and trade deals.

The two countries agreed that Israel would sell 50 million cubic metres of water a year to Jordan, in addition to the 55 million cubic metres it already provides free of charge.

Under this agreement, Jordan is allowed to increase its exports to Palestinians in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967.

Earlier this week, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the first high-level meeting between the two sides in years.

Gantz said the Israeli government is interested in bolstering Abbas in his rivalry against Gaza’s ruling Hamas group, including plans to loan $150m to the cash-strapped autonomy government in the West Bank.

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