AFP: US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said he met Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Tuesday for talks on Iraq, Iran and the Arab-Israeli peace process, on the first leg of a Middle East tour. by Carlos Hamann
AMMAN, April 17, 2007 (AFP) – US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said he met Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Tuesday for talks on Iraq, Iran and the Arab-Israeli peace process, on the first leg of a Middle East tour.
Gates, on a visit aimed at rallying support for Iraq’s government and countering Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East, arrived in Jordan on Monday.
“We had very wide-ranging conversations,” said Gates, speaking to reporters just before leaving Amman.
On Iran, the two sides “agreed that diplomatic and economic pressure” was the best means to bring about a change of attitude in Tehran, said the defence secretary.
The focus of their talks on Iraq was “the current situation . . . and how we can make it work”.
“There is not yet confidence in the region that Iraq’s government represents all Iraqis,” Gates said. But the more support Iraq received from its neighbours, the more representative the government would become.
A senior US military official in Gates’s delegation said Washington wanted its Arab allies Jordan and Egypt to show more public support for the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
King Abdullah, meanwhile, “stressed to the defence secretary the importance of advancing peace in the region in accordance with a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” the palace said in a statement.
He said the conflict “remains the core conflict in the region and that international and regional actors should make the establishment of an independent Palestinian state a priority in order to realise regional peace and stability”.
The king called for support of the Saudi-inspired Arab peace initiative.
An Arab summit held in Riyadh last month offered Israel peace and normal ties with Arab countries in exchange for withdrawing from Arab land occupied during the 1967 Six Day War, the creation of a Palestinian state and the return of refugees.
King Abdullah and Gates also “reviewed the situation in Iraq and the efforts exerted to foster security and end the cycle of violence”, the palace said.
“King Abdullah expressed his conviction that the inclusion of all Iraqis in the political process was the only guarantee of a better future for the country.”
Their talks likewise covered defence, but the palace made no mention of Iran.
The United States is seeking to drum up greater Arab public opposition to Iran’s controversial nuclear programme and to Iranian support for the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon.
Washington has accused Iran of fomenting sectarian violence in Iraq and supporting anti-US insurgents in the country, charges denied by Tehran.
Gates was to travel on to Egypt later Tuesday but a sandstorm shut Cairo airport and he would instead spend another night in Jordan, US officials said.
After Egypt he is due to travel to Israel.