Jordan's King Abdullah warns of regional conflict over Syria

DUBAI Wed Jun 26, 2013 6:44am EDT

Jordan's King Abdullah speaks during the closing ceremony of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa at the King Hussein Convention Centre, at the Dead Sea May 26, 2013. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

Jordan's King Abdullah speaks during the closing ceremony of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa at the King Hussein Convention Centre, at the Dead Sea May 26, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Muhammad Hamed

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Jordan's King Abdullah said Syria's war could ignite a regional sectarian conflict unless global powers helped to convene peace talks soon, a pan-Arab newspaper reported on Wednesday.

King Abdullah also said Palestinians could launch an Arab Spring-style revolt if they felt prospects for a peaceful settlement of their conflict with Israel had reached a dead end, the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper said.

Situated near Syria and next door to Israel and the occupied West Bank, U.S.-allied Jordan is affected by instability in the region. Jordan has taken in more than 500,000 Syrians out of a total 1.5 million who have fled the war, U.N. officials say.

"It has become clear to all that the Syrian crisis may extend from being a civil war to a regional and sectarian conflict...the extent of which is unknown," King Abdullah said in an interview.

"It is time for a more serious Arab and international coordination to stop the deterioration of the Syrian crisis. The situation cannot wait any longer," he added.

The Syrian civil war, which has claimed more than 93,000 lives in two years, has increasingly turned into a sectarian conflict. The Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah announced last month it had joined fighting against Saudi-backed, Sunni-led rebels trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

U.S. President Barack Obama last week said that Washington, keeping a wary eye on the war, has left about 700 combat-equipped troops in Jordan after a training exercise. The United States had previously decided to leave Patriot missiles and warplanes there.

King Abdullah said that efforts to convene a peace conference bringing together the Syrian government and the opposition remained "the logical and ideal way" to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Talks between the United States and Russia in Geneva on Tuesday to set up such a conference produced no agreement, with the powers on either side of the conflict failing to agree when it should be held or who would be invited.

King Abdullah also welcomed efforts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, but warned of a narrowing window for peace due to Israeli settlement building.

"Fading prospects of peace will explode relations between Palestinians and Israelis in a manner emulating the Arab Spring protests, either through a new intifada (uprising) or a new cycle of violence and counter violence," he said.

(Reporting by Sami Aboudi, Editing by William Maclean and Angus MacSwan)

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