Amman - Jordan will not renew Israel’s 25-year lease on two tracts of land along their border, following a campaign in the kingdom to return control to Amman.
Under the 1994 peace treaty between the countries Israel acquired private land ownership and special travel rights in Baqura in the northwestern part of the kingdom and Al-Ghamr in the south.
Under an annex to the peace agreement, Israel leased about 400 hectares of agricultural land and a small area known as the Island of Peace near the Sea of Galilee.
The lease expires next year, and Jordan now wanted to exercise its “full sovereignty” over the two areas, King Abdullah said on Sunday in an announcement widely welcomed in the kingdom.
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.
Baqura, in the northern Jordan Valley, was captured by Israel in 1950. Ghamr, near Aqaba in southern Jordan, was seized in the 1967 Mideast War.
Abdullah said he informed Israel of his decision. “We are practicing our full sovereignty on our land,” he said. “Our priority in these regional circumstances is to protect our interests and do whatever is required for Jordan and the Jordanians.”
King 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.
Last week, demonstrators demanding an end to Israeli ownership of the lands marched in Jordan’s capital of Amman.
“These are Jordanian lands and they will remain..” the monarch said. 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.