Jordan shocks Jerusalem, downgrades peace treaty with Israel

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Much of the land in Baqura in the northwestern part of the Kingdom and Ghumar in the south is used by Israeli military officers and farmers, some of whom were given private land ownership rights and special travel rights under a 1994 peace treaty between the two countries. They have also been expanding economic ties in the a year ago. There has been talk for months inside Jordan of the need to regain those two areas.

Abdullah is in vice. "We will go into negotiations with them on the option of extending the existing agreement", Netanyahu said. "Our priority in these regional circumstances is to protect our interests and do whatever is required for Jordan and the Jordanians".

Under Jordan's constitutional monarchy, only King Abdullah has the power to eventually rescind the peace deal with Israel.

That is language that appeals to the Islamists opposed to the treaty with Israel, and who have worked for years to narrow it.

Abdullah did not give a reason for his decision, but he has faced escalating domestic pressure to end the lease and return the territories to full Jordanian control. Business is also involved.

Meanwhile the Yediot Aharanot newspaper quoted Eyal Bloom, a local official in southern Israel, as saying that the Tzofar area was important for Israel's security and 30 Israeli farms would collapse if Jordan reclaimed it.

This is a plan the Jordanians are very keen on seeing implemented, but which has not taken off because of concerns in Israel about its economic feasibility.

"Our priorities in such hard regional circumstances are protecting our interests and doing everything necessary for Jordan and the Jordanians", Abdullah II noted, adding that Israel had been made aware of the decision.

As part of a 1994 peace treaty, Israel retained private land ownership and special travel rights in Baqura in the northwestern part of the kingdom and Ghamr in the south for 25 years, with a one-year notice period needed to keep the lease from automatically extending.

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.

Despite the two sides sharing close security ties, there has been increased tensions between Jordan and Israel over the Israeli governments "provocative" measures ranging from placing restrictions on the Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque and the Noble Sanctuary - recognised in the peace treaty as under Jordanian custodianship - to the continued construction of settlements on 1967 territory. "It is a two way process, and in the consultations between the countries, all these aspects will presumably be covered".

On Sunday afternoon, the government held an emergency session to discuss how to fulfill the King's directives and end the lease agreement and strike it from the Wadi Araba peace deal.

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