Jordan denies reports of participation in NATO forces 23May10 May 24, 2010

Ma’an News Agency -  23 May 2010

Responding to reports that President Mahmoud Abbas would consider the deployment of NATO forces along a future Palestinian state’s borders, Jordan denied suggestions that it would deploy troops in assistance, officials said Saturday evening.

Jordan’s Minister of State for Media Affairs Nabil Ash-Sharif said “the issue is baseless and has never been discussed at all. It is totally untrue. We have no knowledge of the report.”

Jordanian King Abdullah II, responding to Saudi Arabian newspaper Al-Madina’s report on Friday that Jordan would comprise 60 percent of the NATO forces, said “Jordanian forces will not replace Israeli troops in the West Bank,” in an official statement.

Media speculation surrounding the possible deployment of NATO forces along the future Palestinian state’s border in order to later create a de-militarized zone, surfaced on Wednesday, after the London-based Arabic language daily newspaper Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat said Abbas was considering approving their presence in the future state.

The reports follow an announcement by chief PLO negotiator last week following a meeting with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell with Abbas in Ramallah on Wednesday, saying final status issues — which include the future of East Jerusalem, borders, and the return of Palestinian refugees — had been on the agenda.

According to the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth the forces would monitor the borders of the future Palestinian state, in order to stop arms smuggling to what is supposed to become a demilitarized zone and would be tasked with “protecting the Palestinian state from Israel.”

Erekat was quick to dismiss reports that Abbas was considering NATO forces on Thursday, As the latest round of US-mediated talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials were held, chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat denied reports that the Palestinian Authority would be willing to have NATO forces deployed in a future Palestinian state.

Rebuffing the suggestions, Erekat told Ma’an “intensive contacts are being held with Jordan and Egypt and Arab states to give them up-to-date information on developments in the region … There are no secret talks concerning international forces.”

Other reports said secret Jordanian-Palestinian talks were underway in Amman and in Brussels, during which details of the NATO forces deployment were discussed.

However, the PLO official said, referring to the Temporary International Presence in Hebron charged with monitoring violations against Palestinians by settlers and Israeli forces, “If a state were declared, international forces may be deployed similar to those along the Egypt-Israel border and Lebanon-Israel border. This is normal.”

Sources reportedly Asharq Al-Awsat that amidst secret talks on NATO forces, Jordan had agreed to have 60 percent composed of Jordanian troops.

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