January 27, 2017 / 2:21 AM / 3 years ago

Jordan's King Abdullah to visit U.S. from Monday

FILE PHOTO: Jordan's King Abdullah speaks during the opening of the third ordinary session of the 17th Parliament in Amman, Jordan, November 15, 2015. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed/File Photo - RTSVLAL

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Jordan’s King Abdullah will begin a visit to the United States on Monday, the Jordanian embassy said on Thursday, the first Arab leader to hold talks with the new administration of President Donald Trump.

“HM King Abdullah II will start a working visit to U.S. on Monday during which he will meet w/new administration & Congress,” the Jordanian embassy in Washington said on Twitter. It did not say whether a meeting between Abdullah and Trump was scheduled.

Abdullah has just finished a visit to Russia where President Vladimir Putin thanked Jordan for supporting the Syrian peace process. Jordan is part of a U.S.-led military campaign against Islamic State militants in Syria.

Less than a week into his presidency, Trump told ABC News on Wednesday that he would “absolutely do safe zones in Syria” for refugees fleeing violence and that Europe had made a mistake by admitting millions of refugees from Syria.

The creation of safe zones would ratchet up U.S. military involvement in Syria and mark a major departure from former President Barack Obama’s more cautious approach. Increased U.S. or allied air power would be required if Trump chose to enforce “no fly” restrictions, and ground forces might also be needed to protect civilians in those areas.

Abdullah’s visit comes as Trump is preparing to sign an executive order that would include a temporary ban on all refugees, and a suspension of visas for citizens of Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Iran.

Jordan has been overwhelmed by the influx of refugees since the Syrian conflict began. The vast majority of refugees referred by the U.N. refugee agency to the United States come from Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq.

Abdullah, who has a role as custodian of the Muslim sacred sites in Jerusalem, has also been key to efforts by the United States to broker a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians. Since Israel’s creation in 1948, Jordan has absorbed waves of Palestinian refugees, as well as fugitives from the 1975-90 civil war in Lebanon and from Iraq.

While campaigning for the presidency, Trump pledged to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a statement that drew an outcry from Palestinians and others who said it would kill any prospect for peace.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Leslie Adler

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