Middle East

Israeli PM meets Jordan king on Syria: media

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R), Defence Minister Ehud Barak (C) and Chief of Staff Lieutenant Benny Gantz (L) attend an air show at the graduation ceremony of Israeli pilots at the Hatzerim air force base in the Negev desert, near the southern Israeli city of Beersheva, on December 27, 2012. (AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has held talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman on the violence in Syria and the country’s chemical weapons stock, Israeli media said Thursday.

Public radio and several local newspapers said Israeli and Jordanian officials had confirmed the meeting, which was first reported in Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper Wednesday.

A spokesman for Netanyahu declined to comment on the reports.

The date of the meeting has not been reported but Israeli media said the talks focused on the regional threat posed by Syria’s chemical weapons stocks.

“Both sides arrived at the meeting with maps in hand,” the Yediot Aharonot daily said. “Their maps marked the various sites across Syria where the forbidden weapons are being stored.”

It cited Jordanian officials as saying the two leaders “raised situation assessments about the ‘day after Assad’ and examined the danger posed by the chemical weapons in Syria to neighboring countries, first and foremost Jordan and Israel.”

The meeting also touched on Jordan’s attempts to kickstart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, with the monarch urging Netanyahu to renew discussions directly after Israel’s general election on Jan. 22.

“At this stage it is not clear what this Israeli-Jordanian brainstorming is going to produce,” analyst Smadar Peri wrote.

“The entire world wants [Syrian President Bashar] Assad gone, but Israel and Jordan – as well as Turkey and Lebanon – are going to have to deal with what he might do in his final moments in power.”

Assad’s stocks of chemical and biological weapons remain a primary concern for Syria’s neighbors as well as for much of the international community.

Assad’s regime has insisted it would never use the weapons against its own people, but as violence between the regime and rebels seeking its overthrow rages on, there are fears an embattled leadership could unleash the weapons.

The international community also fears the weapons could be transferred to or seized by militant groups.

Speaking at the graduation ceremony of army pilots Thursday, Netanyahu reiterated that Israel was closely monitoring its northern neighbor.

“The Syrian airforce is targeting hundreds of Syrian civilians, and they have no qualms over using any means,” he said. “Israel is following the developments in Syria, and Israel will do everything in the face of this threat and every threat.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 28, 2012, on page 8.




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