Jordan receives Israeli request to negotiate on land leases

Jordan says Israel asked for consultations on the leasing of Tzofar and Naharayim, which Jordan wants to end.

Elad Benari ,

Israeli-Jordanian border in Aqaba
Israeli-Jordanian border in Aqaba

Jordan said on Sunday that Israel had asked for consultations on a special land deal agreed in their peace treaty that the Jordanian government wants to end, Reuters reported.

Under the 1994 peace treaty, the lands in Naharayim and Tzofar were recognized to be under Jordanian sovereignty but the treaty gave Israel special provisions to use the land and allow Israelis free access.

The treaty stipulated that the deal would be automatically renewed unless either of the parties notified the other a year before expiry that it wished to terminate the agreement.

Two weeks ago, King Abdullah II of Jordan announced that he had decided not to extend the leases to Israel.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu later said that while he acknowledges Jordan’s right not to extend the lease, his government will open negotiations with the kingdom to secure an extension of the lease, which is slated to end in October 2019.

Jordan’s Petra state news agency quoted government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat as saying on Sunday that Jordan had received the Israeli request to start negotiations on the issue but did not say when the discussions would begin.

The Jordanian King made the announcement following massive protests in the Jordanian capital city of Amman demanding the government scrap the agreement with Israel.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi, made clear recently that the kingdom’s commitment to uphold the peace treaty with Israel was not in question despite its decision to end the lease of the lands in Naharayim and Tzofar.

Relations between the two countries had actually improved in recent months, with a meeting also held between King Abdullah and Netanyahu. This followed a period of sour relations in the wake of the incident in which an Israeli security guard at the embassy in Amman shot and killed two people after one of them tried to attack him.