April 30, 2010 - 12:00am

Jordan's King Abdullah II said Thursday that Israel was "playing with fire" in Jerusalem, stressing that the Hashemite Kingdom retains all political, diplomatic and legal options to "protect" Jerusalem and its Muslim holy sites.

Speaking to foreign ambassadors on the shores of the Dead Sea, Abdullah said reaffirming the Palestinian quest for statehood was a top priority for his country.

"We want peace and strive for it, because all the people of the region are entitled to a just peace," Abdullah said, "Israel must respond to this Arab position, for peace alone, and not armies or walls, will guarantee real security for all people and countries."

The king was quoted by the Jordan Times as saying that Jordan would do whatever it can "to achieve justice for the Palestinians, end the occupation and help them achieve their rights to freedom and a state on their national soil."

According to Abdullah, Israel must choose between "living in a fortress" or reaching peace with all Arab and Muslim states on the basis of the Arab peace initiative, by withdrawing from "occupied Arab lands" and establishing an independent Palestinian state that lives alongside Israel "with a comprehensive peace that ensures real security and acceptance for Israel."

King Abdullah noted that achieving peace requires a positive environment for negotiations, which, according to him, means a halt to "unilateral Israeli measures in the occupied territories, particularly settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem."

About two weeks ago King Abdullah said that Hezbollah's activities in Lebanon and the stalled peace process with the Palestinians might lead to war. "In recent years, without progress, we've witnessed two wars in a short period of time.

"There are sources in Lebanon that feel that war is inevitable. The threat of war exists. If we do not bring the Palestinians and Israelis to the negotiations table and if we cross the July deadline – there is a high chance of confrontation. I wouldn't want to meet with you in six or seven months and say 'I told you so'," said Abdullah in a conversation with the Chicago Tribune's editorial board.


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