Jordan shocks Jerusalem, downgrades peace treaty with Israel


Jordan's King Abdullah announced on Sunday his decision to terminate an appendix of the 1994 Israel-Jordan/Wadi Araba peace treaty relating to the lease of the kingdoms' sovereign land to the Jewish state.

King Abdullah, who has been under increasing public pressure to end the leasing arrangements with Israel, told senior politicians the kingdom wanted to exercise its "full sovereignty" over the two areas, Petra state news agency said.

The parts Jordan wants to revoke relate to two parcels of land Jordan leased to Israel for 25 years.

Protests rocked the kingdom in recent days to demand the return of the two territories to Jordan's sovereignty with lawmakers calling on the government not to renew their lease.

Responding to the announcement, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he meant to "negotiate with Jordan for its extension" adding that "there is no doubt that the entire agreement is important and dear to both our countries".

The Jordan Bar Association sent an official letter to Prime Minister Omar a-Razzaz about the issue, while 87 out of 130 Jordanian parliament members, signed a request to carry out that body's recommendation to cancel the lease.

Anis Qassem, a Palestinian expert on global law, said that legally the "right to use the lands of Baqura and Ghumar was given to Israel and gave it de facto sovereignty while Jordan has superficial sovereignty". In an "era of regional turmoil" his Kingdom - between Syria to the north, Iraq to the east and Israel to its west - Jordan wanted to protect its "national interests", Abdullah said.

Jordan shocks Jerusalem, downgrades peace treaty with Israel

The agreement would remain in force for 25 years and renewed automatically unless notice of termination was given by either party one year in advance. He spoke at a memorial for the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who signed the peace deal with Jordan.

"We will enter into negotiations with the possibility of extending the existing arrangement".

Opposition Jordanian parties, including Islamists, leftists and pan-Arabists, as well as professional unions and political activists, had all taken part in the campaign to call for the ending of the deal.

After the 1994 agreement, Jordan became the second Arab country (after Egypt) to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. An incident past year in which an Israeli security guard killed two Jordanian citizens within the Israeli embassy compound added to the tension. They signed a trade treaty in 1996 and in 2014, agreed to a $500 million natural gas deal effective for 15 years.

Under an annex to the peace agreement, Israel uses about 1,000 acres (405 hectares) of agricultural land in the southern sector of its border with Jordan.

Israel's former ambassador to Jordan, Oded Eran, said he was not surprised by Jordan's decision, and said there was still time for the two countries to re-negotiate the agreement.

"But there is no doubt, from a comprehensive perspective, that the entire agreement is an important asset, important and dear, to both countries", Netanyahu said.

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