Abdullah II Ibn Hussein (Abdullah II of Jordan; 1962–)

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ABDULLAH II IBN HUSSEIN (Abdullah II of Jordan; 1962–)

King of Jordan. The eldest son of King Hussein of Jordan and his British second wife, Princess Muna (Antoinette Avril Gardiner), Prince Abdullah ibn Hussein was born on 30 January 1962 and was Jordan's crown prince from 1962 to 1965. However, in order to avoid a too-prolonged regency in case of premature death, the king designated his own brother, Hassan ibn Talal, as crown prince, on the condition that Abdullah would become crown prince in case of the accession of Hassan to the throne. In
1980, after studies in England and the United States, Abdullah enrolled in the British Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, then did graduate studies at Oxford.

Upon his return to Jordan in 1984 he was assigned to the 40th Armored Brigade. He traveled the following year to the United States and France for military training. In 1986 he was assigned to a Jordanian helicopter platoon. In 1989, after new periods of military and college education in the United States and Great Britain, he was promoted to the rank of commander, then, in January 1993, to the rank of colonel. On 10 June Abdullah married Rania al-Yasin, a Kuwaiti-born Palestinian, with whom, a year later, he had his first child, Hussein. In November 1993, promoted to brigadier general, he took command of the Jordanian Special Forces, then three years later, of the Royal Jordanian Special Operation Command (RJSOC), merging the Special Forces corps and those of the Royal Guard. On 2 May 1998 he was named major general.

On 25 January 1999, upon his father's return from a stay in the United States, where King Hussein had received treatment for cancer, Abdullah was made crown prince, replacing his uncle Hassan. After the death of his father on 7 February, Abdullah became king of Jordan, under the name of Abdullah II. He designated his brother Hamza—son of King Hussein and Queen Noor—as crown prince. To make himself known on the international political scene, Abdullah traveled extensively that summer, going to Europe, the United States, and Canada. On 26 July, on the morning of the funeral of the king of Morocco, where he also had an opportunity to meet with U.S. president Bill Clinton and Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, he paid a surprise visit to Damascus, where he was received by President Hafiz al-Asad.

On 5 September Abdullah signed an accord developed at Sharm al-Shaykh (Egypt) between Ehud Barak and Palestinian president Yasir Arafat. This agreement was thought to open the way to negotiations for a final peace settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis. A few days later King Abdullah visited Kuwait, ending a period of chill in the relations between the two countries that had followed the Gulf War. On 1 November, after his first address to the Jordanian Parliament, Abdullah dedicated himself to pursuing his father's work in favor of peace in the Middle East and a rapprochement with Arab "brother" nations. Domestically, after having warned off Islamist Jordanians opposed to peace with Israel, he announced his intention of continuing the process of democratization begun ten years earlier and to pursue the fight against corruption. On 25 November, in his speech opening the World Conference on Religion and Peace, which took place in Amman, he hardened his tone on Israel, declaring that the latter should renounce its territorial ambitions in the eastern sector of Jerusalem and accept the return of Palestinian refugees in order to attain a durable peace in the Middle East. On 22 August 2000 he made his first official visit to Tel Aviv, where he was received by Prime Minister Barak. Before his trip Abdullah had talked with Arafat and had reaffirmed to him Jordanian support for the Palestinian cause.

The king implicitly gave his support to the U.S. campaign against the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein in 2002–2003, but opposed the war, refusing U.S. forces the use of Jordanian airspace. In June 2003 Abdullah hosted the Aqaba Summit, which was intended to work out the means of implementing the Road Map plan put forth that April by the so-called Quartet (United States, European Union, United Nations, Russia). Later the same month the king hosted an extraordinary "global reconciliation" meeting of the World Economic Forum, concerned mainly with the Middle East, at the Dead Sea resort of Southern Shuneh. He met privately with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Israel in March 2004 to discuss the problems with the "separation wall" Israel was building around Palestinian areas in the West Bank. Aside from his opposition to the wall as inflammatory, he was concerned that it would eventually cause a mass movement of new Palestinian refugees into Jordan, resulting in economic stress and upsetting the demographic balance between Palestinians and East Bank Jordanians, which already threatens Jordan's political stability. After having canceled an earlier meeting with President George W. Bush to protest American support for Sharon's latest plan for Gaza and the West Bank, Abdullah went to Washington in April 2004. There he was the chosen recipient of the president's apology for the torture committed by U.S. forces against Iraqi prisoners in Baghdad. In May 2004 Abdullah again hosted an extraordinary meeting of the World Economic Forum. The circumstances of Abdullah's rule have largely been shaped by the al-Aqsa Intifada in the Palestinian territories and by the U.S. "war on terror." Concerned mainly with the survival of his regime and heavily dependent on aid from the West, he remains active in his attempts to encourage a political settlement for the Palestine-Israel issue while cooperating with the United States and preserving the peace with Israel.

SEE ALSO Abdullah I ibn Hussein;Aqaba Summit;Bush, George W.;Iraq War;Sharm al-Shaykh Summits.