Jordanian King to end border land lease extension with Israel

A view of the Jordan River Naharayim Isle of Peace

Jordan told Israel on Sunday it would not renew a 25-year lease of two tracts of territory along its border, where Israel had certain rights under a 1994 peace treaty, but Israel said it would negotiate with Jordan to extend the lease.

"Al-Baqoura and Al-Ghamr [the Arabic names] have always been our top priority, and our decision is to end Al-Baqoura's annexation and step away from the peace agreement based on our keenness to take whatever is necessary for Jordan and Jordanians", Jordan's King Abdullah II tweeted in Arabic on Sunday.

The lease governing them was for 25 years and had been due for renewal.

"Baqoura and Ghumar were at the top of our priorities", King Abdullah said on Twitter.

"Under the peace treaty with Israel, the two parties agreed that the areas will be under Jordanian sovereignty with Israeli private land-use rights", Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said during a parliamentary session in March cited by the Jordan Times.

There was no immediate Israeli reaction.

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Under the terms of the annex to the peace deal, the lease would be extended automatically unless one party gave notice a year before the lease ended, leading to talks on the matter.

"There's no doubt that in a general outlook, the entire treaty is a valuable asset, important to both countries", he added. He spoke at a memorial for the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who signed the peace deal with Jordan.

In fact, Naharayim - Hebrew for two rivers, as it is located between the Yarmuk and Jordan Rivers - was opened this year to Israeli visitors under the name "Island of Peace". As put by former premier, Abdul Salam Majali, in a recent TV interview, Jordan may have to buy back the land from owners, or just hope that the Israeli side will return it to Jordan free of charge.

Israel's security and intelligence ties with Jordan are more discreet but have likewise strengthened, especially since the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 and the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS).

Israel and Jordan reached an agreement to end the diplomatic fight in January, when a Jordanian government spokesperson said he had received from Israel an "official memorandum" apologizing for the deaths of the two Jordanians, as well as for the killing of a Jordanian judge in a separate incident in 2014.

Activists have been asking the government not to renew the agreement and to annul Israel's ownership of Jordanian lands.

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