Jordan, Russia in Middle East talks

Russian President Vladimir Putin is to discuss Middle East politics with King Abdullah II of Jordan in southern Russia against a backdrop of the Israeli pullout from Gaza and tension over Iran.

    Jordan's King Abdullah met Russia's President Putin (R)

    The two men were meeting on Thursday during the latest in a string of visits to Russia by King Abdullah under Putin's leadership, this time in the informal setting of an official residence on Russia's Black Sea coast near the resort of Sochi.

    "We will discuss the peace process" in the Middle East "and the situation in Iran and Iraq," the ITAR-TASS news agency quoted Abdullah as saying on arrival in Moscow.

    A Kremlin source who asked not to be named said the talks would tackle a range of issues including the evacuation of Israeli settlers from Palestinian territories, international terrorism and religious extremism, and efforts in Iraq to forge a new constitution.

    The talks come as Jordan tries to bolster international support for the Palestinian Authority in the wake of the Israeli pullout from Gaza, a key moment in the Middle East peace process.

    Balancing role

    Jordanian officials say Russia has a "balancing role" as a member of the diplomatic quartet sponsoring the "roadmap" on Mideast peace and also comprises the European Union, the United Nations and the United States.

    "It would be counter-productive and dangerous to use force, the serious consequences of which would be barely predictable"

    Russia's foreign ministry on the use of force against Iran

    "Russia plays an important part in the Middle East, including regarding a settlement of the situation," King Abdullah said.

    The talks also come amid growing international tension over Iran's nuclear programme.

    Russia - a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and also Iran's major nuclear partner - is key to future debate over whether to impose economic sanctions against Tehran.

    On Wednesday, Russia - which is building a nuclear power station in Iran but has agreed to ensure the resulting spent fuel is removed from Iran, cautioned against using force to contain Iran's nuclear programme, a message apparently aimed at the United States and Israel.


    "It would be counter-productive and dangerous to use force, the serious consequences of which would be barely predictable," Russia's Foreign Ministry said.

    Jordan and Russia's close relationship was also reflected in a defence deal signed by King Abdullah on Wednesday as he visited an air show near Moscow.

    The Jordanian leader signed a contract for the purchase of two Russian Ilyushin-76MF military transport planes for an undisclosed sum.

    Russian officials said King Abdullah had also expressed interest in a possible purchase of five Sukhoi SU-31 aerobatic jets, and had said he would instruct officials to begin talks on purchasing Russian military helicopters.



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