Gates Meets Jordan King amid US Peace Push

United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates held talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Monday amid a push by Washington to jumpstart Middle East peace talks that saw both him and Mideast envoy George Mitchell in Israel and Cairo.

"Finding a just solution to the Palestinian issue that would lead to the creation of an independent state is the basis for achieving peace and stability in the region," a palace statement quoted the king as telling Gates.

The king, who discussed with Gates "ways to boost bilateral defense cooperation" said the United States "plays a key role in efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in line with a two-state solution."

Jordan, a key U.S. ally, signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.

Gates was also to meet army chief General Khaled Sarayrah before holding a news conference.

Earlier in the day, Gates reassured Israel that Washington’s bid to talk Iran into giving up nuclear work was time-sensitive and worth pursuing, despite Tehran’s reticence.

But, Barak said, priority should be given to diplomacy and possibly tougher sanctions against Iran.

U.S. President Barack Obama has made fresh diplomatic engagement with Iran — which denies seeking nuclear arms — a centerpiece of his foreign policy.

Gates affirmed that the United States hoped for an Iranian response by September, saying the timeline "does not significantly increase the risks to anybody."

"I think that the president is certainly anticipating or hoping for some kind of response this fall, perhaps by the time of the U.N. General Assembly," Gates said.

For his part, Barak said the schedule for U.S.-led engagement with Iran should be kept short.

Comprehensive Mideast Peace

Meantime, Mitchell met Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the president’s office said, after the U.S. envoy held talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus and Israel’s Barak in Tel Aviv. Mitchell will then head to the West Bank for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He will meet Netanyahu on Tuesday.

Washington is committed to a "comprehensive peace in the Middle East and that includes Israel and Palestine, Israel and Syria, Israel and Lebanon and normal relations with all countries in the regions," Barak’s office quoted Mitchell as saying after the two met in Tel Aviv.

Mitchell’s Middle East swing is also scheduled to include a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
U.S. Diplomatic Push

Mitchell’s and Gates’ Mideast trips come as part of a diplomatic push that will also see National Security Advisor James Jones make a three-day trip beginning on Tuesday.

Obama is determined to reach a comprehensive peace between Israel and all its Arab neighbors in order to guarantee "stability, security and prosperity" in the region, Mitchell said in Damascus.

( English and Agencies)

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