Source AP ©

Capitol Hill has crucial role in advancing Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking

Jordan's King Abdullah II told a visiting U.S. congressional delegation on Sunday that Capitol Hill plays a crucial role in advancing Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

"Both the U.S. Senate and Congress have an important role to positively influence Mideast peacemaking through supporting efforts to restart the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks and bringing both sides back to the negotiating table," Abdullah said.

He warned that failure to end Israel's occupation of the West Bank and help create an independent Palestinian state would "undermine efforts to address other issues in the region" - a clear reference to raging sectarian violence in Iraq and Iran's standoff with the West over its nuclear program.

Abdullah repeated his calls for an Arab peace initiative to be grasped, saying it represented an "historic opportunity" for ending the lingering Arab-Israeli conflict.

The plan, which was revived at an Arab summit recently, offers Israel complete peace with its Arab neighbors in exchange for the Jewish state relinquishing lands its seized in the 1967 Middle East war.

The U.S. and Israel have said the plan could be a basis for reviving the Arab-Israeli peace process, but Israel has also expressed reservations over many of its provisions, including the call to solve the Palestinian refugee issue.

Israel said recently that it would offer a counterproposal to the initiative.

On Iraq, Abdullah echoed his support for efforts aimed at bringing about a "climate of security and stability and helping the country out of the current cycle of violence."

He stressed the need for including "all components of Iraqi society in the ongoing political process to guarantee its success" - a reference to the minority Sunni community, which accuses the Shiite dominated government of sidelining it.

The king's comments came in a closed door meeting with a congressional delegation headed by Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont. Others in the delegation included Republican Senators Thad Cochran from Mississippi and Chuck Hagel from Nebraska, Democratic Senators Ken Salazar from Colorado and Benjamin Cardin from Maryland and Congressman Peter Welch from Vermont.