Jordan's King Abdullah meets Pope Francis and Giorgia Meloni in Italy

Jordanian monarch warns Italian PM of dangers of potential Israeli offensive on Rafah in Gaza

Pope Francis with King Abdullah II of Jordan, in Vatican City on Thursday. EPA
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King Abdullah II met Pope Francis and Italian political leaders in Rome on Thursday as part of a trip focused on discussing the war in Gaza.

The Jordanian king warned President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of the dangers of a potential Israeli invasion of Rafah, in southern Gaza, as the Israeli military reportedly prepares for the operation.

In a meeting with Ms Meloni, King Abdullah "warned against the dangerous repercussions of the Israeli ground offensive on Rafah, and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza", Jordan's official news agency reported.

Jordan has a peace treaty with Israel but relations between the two countries have been strained since the outbreak of the Israel-Gaza war in October.

King Abdullah has repeatedly called for a ceasefire and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He reaffirmed his support for these positions in his meetings in Italy, the Jordanian royal court said.

The king also warned of extremist settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. On Wednesday, Jordan accused “extremist Israeli settlers” of attacking its aid convoys bound for Gaza and criticised the Israeli government for failing to protect the lorries.

Jordan has provided aid to Gaza via land and airdrops but humanitarian groups have warned most of the enclave's 2.3 million people remain at risk of famine and starvation.

King Abdullah highlighted the importance of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, during his meeting with Ms Meloni.

Italy was one of the countries that suspended its funding for UNRWA in January after Israel accused the agency of employing staff linked to "terrorist" groups. A UN report has since found that Israel had submitted no official evidence for its claims.

As well as meeting Italian government officials, King Abdullah also met Pope Francis in Vatican City.

The king reaffirmed Jordan's commitment to undertaking its religious and historical role in safeguarding Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, Jordan News Agency said.

Jordan, which controlled the West Bank and East Jerusalem until the 1967 war, retains a custodian role over religious sites in the city.

King Abdullah also discussed settler violence against Palestinians and the humanitarian situation with Pope Francis, and reiterated his support for UNRWA and a two-state solution.

The Pope has called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

"I renew my appeal for the exhausted and suffering civilian population to be allowed access to humanitarian aid and for the hostages to be released immediately," Pope Francis said last month.

Jordan's Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi, and Jordan’s ambassador to Italy, Qais Abu Dayyeh, were among the delegation in Italy.

The king is expected to travel onwards to the US after his visit to Italy

“The business trip to the two countries comes in the framework of the efforts that Jordan is making to reach an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza,” the Jordanian Royal Palace said.

The palace did not give any further details of the king's itinerary.

King Abdullah met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Amman on Tuesday after having visited Washington in February, when he met US President Joe Biden.

Updated: May 02, 2024, 3:02 PM