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Israeli prime minister in Amman for secret talks with King

Netanyahu made a surprise visit to Jordan

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, listens to Jordan's King Abdullah II, left, (photo credit: AP/Yousef Allan, Jordanian Royal Palace) news

AMMAN, Jordan - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a surprise visit to Jordan on Thursday for talks with the king on the latest developments in the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, the Royal Palace said in a statement

The Jordan palace in a statement said Netanyahu and the king held closed door talks about the "developments in the peace process" and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations sponsored by the US.

It said that the meeting with Netanyahu was significant because it coincided with a "critical period" in the negotiations. However there was no elaboration.

In a statement released after Netanyahu's return to Israel, the prime minister stressed the important role played by Jordan in the efforts to bring about an agreement.

Netanyahu has on a number of occasions paid unannounced visits to Jordan to meet with Abdullah since becoming prime minister again in 2009.

Jordan maintains cordial ties with Israel under a peace treaty signed in 1994 one of only two signed agreements the Jewish state has with an Arab nation.

The Abdullah-Netanyahu talks came a week after the king hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and prior to that the US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry is brokering a peace deal between Israel and Palestine.

Israel and Palestine have set an April target date for agreeing on a framework for peace after the two sides resumed talks last summer. But in recent weeks, they appear to have hardened their positions.

The Palestinians seek the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, territories captured by Israel in 1967, for an independent Palestine state.

Netanyahu is insisting on keeping parts of the West Bank and says he will not share control of east Jerusalem, home to sensitive religious sites, including Masjid Al Aqsa, second most revered place of worship for Muslim after Kaaba in Makkah.

Netanyahu has also insisted that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland, a condition they say would undermine the rights of Palestinian refugees and Israel's own Arab minority.

Also on Thursday Israel's Army Radio reported that Netanyahu is insisting on keeping the Beit El settlement bloc as a part of the peace deal.

The radio quoted a source familiar with the negotiations as saying Netanyahu, in his talks with Kerry, cited a biblical connection to the Beit El area, noting its depiction in the Book of Genesis as the place where Jacob dreamed about a ladder to heaven.

Netanyahu's spokesman declined to comment on the report.

If this happens, it would leave 13 percent of the West Bank in Israeli hands. There was no immediate comment from Abbas.

Netanyahu has also offered to buy some of the settlement land from the Palestinians, according to the report, but they rejected such a deal.

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