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Obama's first meeting with an Arab leader

King Abdullah of Jordan comes to Washington to push for a two-state solution in the Middle East.

U.S. President Barack Obama walks with Jordan's King Abdullah outside the Oval Office of the White House in Washington April 21, 2009. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

AMMAN — King Abdullah II Ibn al-Hussein's meeting with President Barack Obama to discuss the Arab-Israeli peace process marks the first time an Arab leader has had an audience with the new U.S. president.

The meeting comes at a time when King Abdullah of Jordan and other Arab leaders are seeking to influence the Obama administration as it is still formulating its policies on the Middle East, and Abdullah came to Washington to represent a united Arab position to the new U.S. administration.

Obama and Abdullah met with reporters just after their meeting at the White House, and Obama said his administration, led by special envoy George Mitchell, would "deeply engage" in the peace process. 

Obama also reiterated that he was a "strong proponent of a two-state solution" in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which has been repeatedly eclipsed by one spike of violence after another in recent years.

Almost all of the questions were directed at Obama. Abdullah said very few words in the half-hour press conference, which was aired live on CNN. 

Abdullah said, "We are looking at the positives and not the negatives ... to see how we can move this process forward."

The king came to Washington intent on pushing the U.S. to advocate for a two-state solution in Israel and the Palestinian territories, but some regional analysts question whether the U.S. can be a force for change in the Middle East, given Israel’s new hard-line Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a divided Palestinian government.

“Regardless of the might or willingness of the United States, with or without the EU, eventually the ability to translate the superpowers’ powers into action when it comes to such a complex ethnic conflict will very much depend on the ability and the willingness of all parties concerned to cooperate and join forces,” said Avraham Sela, a professor of international relations at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

King Abdullah, who met with foreign ministers from Egypt, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar and Saudi Arabia before traveling to the U.S., is expected to reiterate the aims of the Arab Initiative, which was signed in 2002.

The pact calls for Israel to relinquish the territory it captured in 1967; in exchange the Arab nations will restore normal relations with Israel. The plan was largely overlooked by the Bush administration.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/jordan/090421/obamas-first-meeting-arab-leader