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Israel doubles water supply to Jordan; source says prime minister met king

JERUSALEM July 8 (Reuters) – Israel will double its water supply to Jordan this year and urge Amman to export more to the Palestinians, Israeli officials said Thursday after a source told Reuters that the new Israeli prime minister had secretly met the Jordanian king .

Jordan is a key security partner for Israel, but the relationship has suffered in recent years due to Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

Yair Lapid, foreign minister in a cross-party coalition that ousted long-serving Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a month ago, held a first meeting with Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi on Thursday.

Separately, a source who refused to be identified by name or nationality said Netanyahu’s successor, Naftali Bennett, visited an unannounced Amman last week to see King Abdullah.

Israeli and Jordanian spokesmen had no immediate comment on what the source described as June 29 talks in Abdullah’s palace, meant to improve ties strained during Netanyahu’s term.

A July 1 statement on the palace said Abdullah had embarked on a three-week visit to the United States that would include President Joe Biden’s first meeting with an Arab leader in the White House since taking office.

Biden hosts Abdullah there on July 19, the White House said on Wednesday, adding that these talks would be “an opportunity to … showcase Jordan’s leading role in promoting peace and stability in the region”.

Lapid said Israel would sell its neighbor 50 million cubic meters of water this year.

An Israeli official said it would effectively double the supply for the year – from May 2021 to May 2022 – as about 50 million cubic meters had already been sold or given to Jordan. A Jordanian official said Israel gives the kingdom 30 million cubic meters annually under their 1994 peace agreement.

Lapid said the countries also agreed to explore increasing Jordan’s exports to the West Bank to $ 700 million a year from $ 160 million now.

“The Kingdom of Jordan is an important neighbor and partner,” Lapid said in a statement. “We want to expand economic cooperation for the benefit of the two countries.”

The United States welcomed the agreements. “It is this kind of tangible step that increases the prosperity of all and promotes regional stability,” said spokesman spokesman Ned Price in a statement.

Abdullah strongly opposed former US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, which he saw as a national security threat that would also undermine his Hashemite family’s custody of holy sites in Jerusalem.

Officials say the shift in U.S. policy under Biden toward a more traditional commitment to a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict has eased pressure on Jordan, where a majority of the population of 10 million are Palestinians.

Writing by Dan Williams and Suleiman al-Khalidi; Editing Giles Elgood

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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