US Secretary of State John Kerry says Israel and the Palestinians have pledged to take concrete steps to calm tensions around Jerusalem’s holiest site.
He spoke after talks in Amman with King Abdullah of Jordan which is custodian of the compound housing the al-Aqsa mosque but also revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.
All parties had agreed to “specific and practical actions that both sides can take to restore calm,” said Kerry, declining to say what those actions were.
“We are working to smother the sparks of immediate tension so that they don’t become a fire that is absolutely out of control,” he added, flanked by Jordanian Foreign Minister Naser Judeh.
“And the first thing we have to do is restore calm, before you can talk about other alternatives. The United States stands ready to be engaged, provided the parties themselves begin to create the climate.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also took part in the talks, travelling to Amman from Jerusalem. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met the US Secretary of State separately earlier in the day.
Anger over who can and cannot pray at the compound has sparked clashes there and wider unrest in the West Bank with all the signs that unless tension does drop, this could mark the start of a new Palestinian uprising.
Judeh said Jordan would not return its ambassador to Tel Aviv, whom it recalled last week in protest against Israeli actions, until it saw concrete evidence of measures to defuse tensions.
“Israel has to remove all the elements of instability that we are seeing. We have to wait and see if this is done,” he said.
Earlier, Abdullah accused Israel of “repeated attacks” on holy sites in Jerusalem and said they must stop. Jordanian religious officials who administer the Muslim sites have said there has been an unprecedented number of raids by ultra nationalists inside the mosque this year. Netanyahu has accused Palestinians in the West Bank of fomenting violence.