Israel and Jordan held talks on Syria's access to chemical weapons


Officials in Jerusalem and Amman have confirmed that Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently held talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah on the possibility of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad using chemical weapons.

Relations between the two men are frosty and they have not met publicly for 2½ years. However, the mutual fear of the fate of Syria’s stockpile of chemical and biological weapons prompted the clandestine meeting.

Neither side provided details of the talks, which were initially reported by the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper. The paper said that the two leaders discussed possible methods of destroying Syria’s chemical weapons, including airstrikes or a ground assault, but Amman was reluctant to back such action.

Israel’s Yediot Aharonot newspaper reported that both sides came to the meeting with maps marking Syrian storage facilities for chemical weapons. Earlier this month, the Atlantic magazine reported that Israel had twice requested “permission” from Jordan to bomb Syria, but was told that Amman felt the time was not right.

According to that report, Israel sought Jordanian approval for a strike on Syria because some of the regime’s chemical weapons are stored near its border with Jordan, but Amman feared provoking its neighbour to the north.

US intervention

Strategic affairs minister Moshe Ya’alon said Washington was gearing up for the option of military involvement in Syria if the embattled regime used chemical weapons against opposition fighters.

Separately, Israel has agreed to ease its blockade on Gaza , in response to five weeks of quiet following last month’s conflict. From Sunday, Israel will allow construction materials into Gaza, after Egyptian mediation between Israel and Hamas. Israel promised to help improve the electricity system.