Jordan’s King Abdullah II flew in to the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday for the first visit by a top foreign leader since the Palestinians gained upgraded United Nations status.
The monarch arrived by military helicopter from Jordan, landing at the presidential headquarters known as the Muqataa, where he was greeted by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and other senior officials.
“We and our Palestinian people and its leadership welcome this historic visit, which comes after Palestine became a (non-member) observer at the United Nations,” presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said in a statement carried on the Palestinians’ WAFA news agency.
The Palestinians “highly appreciate the important role his majesty and Jordan played internationally and regionally and at the UN to achieve this important historical achievement,” he said.
The Jordanian king was welcomed by a guard of honour at the Muqataa, where the Jordanian flag was raised alongside the Palestinian.
He was accompanied by a delegation including Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur and Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.
The visit is the first time a head of state has visited Ramallah since the Palestinians won non-member observer state status at the United Nations on November 29.
The 138-9 vote at the General Assembly was cheered by many Palestinians, although they acknowledged it will change little on the ground in the short term.
But it was fiercely opposed by both Israel and the United States, with the Jewish state quickly responding with punitive measures.
It announced it was reviving a plan to build settlements in a highly sensitive West Bank area known as E1, where observers say Israeli construction would effectively end any chance of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state.
The Jordanian foreign minister joined his Palestinian counterpart Riad al-Malki in condemning the E1 project, which has sparked an international backlash and tension between Israel and European governments.
“This would divide the West Bank into two parts,” Judeh said, adding that E1 was “at the heart of the principle of geographical continuity of the Palestinian state.”
“Settlement policy as a principle is rejected not only by us as the Jordanian Hashemite kingdom, as Arabs and Muslims, but by the whole world,” he added.
Judeh praised the Palestinians’ upgraded UN status, which will give them access to a range of international institutions, including potentially the International Criminal Court.
“We must be sure that the next phase will be a phase that leads us to negotiations that deal with all of the issues that we have mentioned, the final status issues, but within a timeframe,” he said.
The Palestinian UN win has had a financial impact on the government headed by Abbas, with Israel withholding tax and tariff revenue for November in response.
Washington is also expected to withhold some aid to the Palestinians over the move, and the Palestinian cabinet in the West Bank on Thursday called on Arab nations to make up the shortfall.
“The cabinet emphasised the need for the Arab brothers to provide a safety net that would enable the national authority to confront the repercussions of these kinds of Israeli measures and meet its various financial obligations,” it said in a statement.
It called on Arab nations “to provide $240 million per month, as long as Israel continues to withhold the authority’s tax revenues and promised budgetary assistance is not provided to compensate for the deficit.”