King announces cancellation of land leases for Naharayim and Tzofar after nearly 25 years; Netanyahu: We will go into negotiations with them [Jordan] on the option of extending the existing agreement.

King Abdullah II

King Abdullah announced on Sunday that Jordan will not renew part of its peace deal with Israel concerning two areas of land leased to Israel for nearly 25 years.

The two areas of land, Baqoura and Ghumar, or Naharayim and Zofar in Hebrew, are annexes that were to be renewed this coming Thursday. King Abdullah II took to Twitter to confirm the Hashemite Kingdom’s move, stating “Baqoura and Ghumar were at the top of our priorities. Our decision is to terminate the Baquoura and Ghamar annexes from the peace treaty out of our keenness to take all decisions that would serve Jordan and Jordanians.” He confirmed that Israel was officially notified.

The decision to cancel the leases comes from both pressure from the Jordanian government and popular disapproval of the Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement by the Jordanian population. Reports claim recent strains in bilateral relations, as well as the peace process may have contributed to the decision.

Under a peace agreement signed in November of 1994 by King Hussein, Abdullah’s father, Israel leased Naharayim and Zofar on the borders with Jordan. Zofar is over 100 kilometers north of Eilat in the Arava Desert and is a significant agricultural area of land for Israel. Naharayim also includes Israeli farms near both the Jordan and Yarmouk Rivers. It includes the Isle of Peace and a hydroelectric power plant.

Prime Minister Netanyahu responded to Jordan, clarifying that Israel will renegotiate with the Kingdom. He stated Sunday, “Jordan has reserved the option to reclaim the area in Naharayim near the Jordan River and the Tzofar enclave in the Arava. We were told today that it seeks to exercise this option in the 25th year. We will go into negotiations with them [Jordan] on the option of extending the existing agreement.”



Photo: Ahmad A Atwah/