The heir apparent to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made a rare solo official visit to Jordan at the weekend, amid a US drive for the normalisation of ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The official Jordanian news agency Petra said that Hussein Al Sheikh, whom Mr Abbas made his de facto number two last year, met on Sunday with Foreign Minister Ayman Al Safadi.
Discussion centred on “stopping the deterioration being witnessed in the occupied Palestinian territories” and restarting peace talks with Israel, which have been frozen for most of the past decade.
A large proportion of Jordan's population are of Palestinian origin. The kingdom, which has the longest land border with Israel, has close links with 87-year-old Mr Abbas and is keen to have a smooth transition after his eventual death.
Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1996, has repeatedly condemned Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, saying it could lead to another wave of refugees that could upset the kingdom's social balance and pose a threat to its stability.
Jordanian political commentator Hazem Ayyad said that Mr Al Sheikh's meeting in Amman heralds a possible drive by Jordan to raise his profile, with Mr Abbas increasingly seen as “unbalanced” politically.
Mr Ayyad pointed to recent remarks by Mr Abbas about the Holocaust that drew condemnation from his western backers.
“Jordan is keen to give Sheikh a push,” said Mr Ayyad. He added that he is also favoured by Washington, Jordan's most powerful ally, as an eventual replacement for Mr Abbas.
In mid-2022, Mr Abbas made Mr Al Sheikh the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's executive committee, one of the most powerful positions in the Palestinian system of rule.
Omar Shaaban, head of PalThink for Strategic Studies think tank, said that despite Jordanian support for Mr Al Sheikh, the kingdom wants him to embark on reforms in the Palestinian system, which has been vastly undermined by allegations of corruption and non-adherence to election procedures.
He expected Mr Al Sheikh to consolidate his position as Mr Abbas's successor at a congress for Fatah, the PLO's largest faction, in December.
“Jordan is very interested in following and pushing for more reforms,” Mr Shabaan said.
He said Jordanian officials also wanted to hear first-hand from Mr Al Sheikh about political developments in the region over the past several months.
Mr Al Sheikh was one of three senior Palestinian officials who met Saudi officials in Riyadh last week.
The meeting reportedly focused on a possible US-brokered normalisation agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, similar to the 2020 Abraham Accords signed by Israel, Bahrain and the UAE. Morocco and Sudan have also since joined.
Details of any Israeli-Saudi deal have not been made officially public, and there has been no comment from Riyadh.
Despite press reports hinting at a breakthrough, western diplomats in Amman say the deal might take a long time to be finalised because of provisions for a military pact between Riyadh and Washington, and possible Saudi demands for empowerment for the Palestinians.
In Riyadh, Mr Al Sheikh also met a visiting US delegation following a call between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Mr Abbas.
Jordan had supported Mr Abbas in his rejection of a Middle East peace deal proposed during the Donald Trump administration, which was seen as diluting Palestinian rights.
Neither Jordan nor Palestinian officials have commented on the current US moves for the Saudi-Israeli deal.
If realised, it would affect all other Arab dealings with Israel, with Saudi Arabia being the largest Arab economy and the birthplace of Islam.