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King Abdullah: Only US Can Pull Mideast Back From Brink - 2002-05-13

Jordan's King Abdullah, wrapping up a week-long U.S. visit, has appealed for U.S. leadership in a new regional peace process that articulates, in advance, the twin goals of Palestinian statehood and security for Israel. He warned that without movement toward peace in the coming weeks, the Middle East will face new and even more serious violence. The Jordanian monarch says the current situation is not a matter of peace-making going off the tracks, but a "train wreck" with enormous destruction. And he says it will require U.S. leadership to pull the region back from the brink.

In a policy address sponsored by the Washington's Brookings Institution, King Abdullah said the "incremental" peace process spawned by the 1991 Madrid conference failed because it did not provide a vision of what an ultimate Israeli-Arab peace would look like or a time-line for achieving it.

He appealed for rapidly-paced new negotiations that would begin with a statement of their final objectives. This he said should be based on the land-for-peace initiative of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah and provide for Palestinian statehood, and a collective Arab peace treaty with Israel that gives the Jewish state the security guarantees it needs.

Without these terms of reference, King Abdullah said, neither side can be expected to take the steps needed to reach a reasonable compromise:

"If we don't articulate a hope, how do you expect a Palestinian or an Arab to stick his neck out and try and curb terrorism? Because there's such a level of frustration, I have to be honest about the feeling on the ground, that nobody is willing take the risk for peace because peace has not been identified clearly," he said. "And the same goes for the Israeli people. If they don't believe that the Arabs are going to embrace them in the neighborhood, why should they try to accommodate the Palestinians?"

King Abdullah said the current lull in Israeli-Palestinian violence will not hold, and will lapse back into even more serious fighting, unless there is tangible action on the peace-making front in the next several weeks starting with the international conference proposed earlier this month by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

He reiterated his call, made at the White House last week, for a U.S. led "peace alliance" of European countries, moderate Arab states and others that would use their collective political to broker a comprehensive, fair and lasting deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

In the meantime, he said, the parties should be told "in no uncertain terms" that while suicide bombings will not be rewarded, neither will occupation.