Biden Backs Legal ‘Status Quo’ of Al-Aqsa Mosque

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has underlined his support for the legal “status quo” of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound in a meeting at the White House with Jordanian King Abdullah II.

Biden, the king and Crown Prince Hussein had a private lunch on Thursday in which the US president “reaffirmed the close, enduring nature of the friendship between the United States and Jordan,” the White House said. They also both spoke with Iraq’s prime minister by phone.

Referring to growing tensions around the Al-Aqsa mosque — located on a site venerated both by Muslims and Jews inside Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem — Biden reaffirmed “the critical need to preserve the historic status quo”. He also recognised Jordan’s “crucial role as the custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem,” the White House said in a statement.

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Biden reiterated the US position of “strong support for a two-state solution,” also thanking King Abdullah “for his close partnership and the role he and Jordan play as a force for stability in the Middle East”.

While with the king, Biden spoke by phone with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani “to reaffirm US commitment to Iraq,” the White House said.

Biden hailed Sudani’s “efforts to strengthen Iraq’s sovereignty and independence,” the statement said, adding that Biden expressed support for the country’s “economic agenda and plans to ensure that Iraq’s economy is delivering for the Iraqi people”.

Biden and Sudani stressed their commitment to keeping the Islamic State militant group from being able to “threaten the Iraqi people or regional and international security.”

King Abdullah was invited to join the call, the White House said, and he “stressed Jordan’s support for Iraq, including through joint strategic infrastructure projects”.

Al-Aqsa mosque is the third-holiest place in Islam and the most sacred site to Jews, who refer to the compound as the Temple Mount.

Under a longstanding status quo, non-Muslims can visit the site at specific times but are not allowed to pray there.

In recent years, a growing number of Jews, most of them Israeli nationalists, have covertly prayed at the compound, angering Palestinians. In January, the national security minister in Israel’s new far-right government made his own visit to the site, sparking a torrent of international condemnation. — AFP

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Photo: A handout picture released by the Jordanian Royal Palace shows Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Hussein meeting with US President Joe Biden (right), in Washington, DC, on February 2, 2023. — AFP

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