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Biden reaffirms support for Jordan's custodianship of al-Aqsa in meeting with King Abdullah

Biden also discussed heightened tensions in the occupied West Bank during a private lunch at the White House with King Abdullah
US President Joe Biden (R) and Jordan's King Abdullah II hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on 19 July 2021 (AFP)

US President Joe Biden emphasised US support for Jordan's custodianship of holy sites in Jerusalem and discussed efforts to reduce tensions in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, during a meeting at the White House with Jordanian King Abdullah II.

The meeting marked King Abdullah’s second visit to the White House in less than a year and the third since Biden took office.

Biden, the king, and Crown Prince Hussein had a private lunch in which the US president "reaffirmed the close, enduring nature of the friendship between the United States and Jordan", the White House said.

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Biden also underlined his support for the legal "status quo" of Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque complex and recognised Jordan’s "crucial role as the custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem”.

The 10 million-strong kingdom squeezed between Iraq, Syria, Israel, the occupied West Bank and Saudi Arabia is one of the US’s closest regional allies and heavily dependent on Washington for aid.

Despite its stability in the region, the country is coping with a flagging economy and sky-high unemployment. Jordan was hit by protests over rising fuel prices late last year and economic frustration has been growing.

In September, Washington provided a large boost in aid to Jordan, committing $10.15bn over the next seven years.

Jordan is also concerned about rising tensions in the occupied West Bank.

Red lines and Netanyahu visit

In December, King Abdullah warned about a potential “breakdown of law and order” in the neighbouring occupied West Bank and cautioned Israel not to cross Amman’s "red lines" over Jerusalem's holy sites.

Before visiting Washington, Abdullah met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Amman to discuss regional tensions, including over Jerusalem's holy sites. King Abdullah and Netanyahu have had a testy relationship in the past.

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In January, Israeli forces held up Jordan’s ambassador to Israel at an entrance to Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque, prompting condemnation from Amman. 

The Hashemite royal family of Jordan are custodians of both the Muslim and Christian holy sites in the city of Jerusalem, going back to an agreement dating to the time of the British mandate of Palestine.

Referring to growing tensions around al-Aqsa Mosque, Biden reaffirmed "the critical need to preserve the historic status quo", the White House said in a statement.

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Biden reiterated the US position of "strong support for a two-state solution” and thanked King Abdullah "for his close partnership and the role he and Jordan play as a force for stability in the Middle East."

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