Jordan's King Abdullah said Syria's war could ignite a regional sectarian conflict unless global powers helped to convene peace talks soon, a pan-Arab newspaper reported on Wednesday.
King Abdullah also said Palestinians could launch an Arab Spring-style revolt if they felt prospects for a peaceful settlement of their conflict with Israel had reached a dead end, the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper said.
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Situated near Syria and next door to Israel and the occupied West Bank, US-allied Jordan is affected by instability in the region. Jordan has taken in more than 500,000 Syrians out of a total 1.5 million who have fled the war, UN officials say.
"It has become clear to all that the Syrian crisis may extend from being a civil war to a regional and sectarian conflict...the extent of which is unknown," King Abdullah said in an interview.
"It is time for a more serious Arab and international coordination to stop the deterioration of the Syrian crisis. The situation cannot wait any longer," he added.
Abdullah spoke ahead of US Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to the region.
The Syrian civil war, which has claimed more than 93,000 lives in two years, has increasingly turned into a sectarian conflict. The Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah announced last month it had joined fighting against Saudi-backed, Sunni-led rebels trying to oust President Bashar Assad.
US President Barack Obama last week said that Washington, keeping a wary eye on the war, has left about 700 combat-equipped troops in Jordan after a training exercise. The United States had previously decided to leave Patriot missiles and warplanes there.
UN monitors leave Golan Heights (Photo: AFP)
King Abdullah said that efforts to convene a peace conference bringing together the Syrian government and the opposition remained "the logical and ideal way" to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.
Talks between the United States and Russia in Geneva on Tuesday to set up such a conference produced no agreement, with the powers on either side of the conflict failing to agree when it should be held or who would be invited.
King Abdullah also welcomed efforts by US Secretary of State John Kerry to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, but warned of a narrowing window for peace due to Israeli settlement building.
"Fading prospects of peace will explode relations between Palestinians and Israelis in a manner emulating the Arab Spring protests, either through a new intifada (uprising) or a new cycle of violence and counter violence," he said.
Asked by Asharq al-Awsat whether he believes that Jordan’s role "is being opposed by Israel, as shown by the negative remarks by the Israeli premier on the Jordanian-Palestinian agreement that reasserts your historical role to protect the holy places in Jerusalem," King Abdullah said: "There is a historical and legal context to this agreement. It aims at updating the legal framework of the Hashemite custodianship of Islamic and Christian holy sites in east Jerusalem, in line with the new legal status of the Palestinian state. The agreement, as far as I am concerned, is the banner for the religious, moral, and historical responsibility I have as a Hashemite, a responsibility that I inherited from my forefather Sharif Hussein bin Ali, who undertook the first Hashemite renovation at Al-Haram Al-Sharif (Dome of the Rock).
"This responsibility cannot be fulfilled through futile media battles, but rather through real action to support the steadfastness of our brotherly Jerusalemites at the political, economic, social, services and education levels. It also entails securing international protection for east Jerusalem as home of civilization and human heritage and preventing any attempts to jeopardize its historical identity and freedom of worship by imposing a new reality on the ground that seeks to erase its Arab, Islamic and Christian identity," he said.
"The most significant element in this equation is supporting the brotherly Palestinians in their struggle for an independent Palestinian state and, exerting efforts in international forums to apply international pressure on Israel and place before it its responsibilities as an occupying state. These are our historical responsibilities and no one will prevent us from fulfilling them."
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