Jordan is set to reclaim full control of the areas of Baqura and Ghamr following the expiration of a 25-year lease to Israel, King Abdullah II confirmed on Sunday.
Speaking in Jordanian parliament, the monarch declared “the imposition of our full sovereignty over every inch of those lands.”
Ghamr and Baqura became part of Jordan after the country gained independence from Britain in 1946. They were later seized by Israel but eventually incorporated into a peace treaty between the two countries in 1994. The treaty included a long-term lease that would allow Israeli farmers to work in the area.
In addition to farming, Baqura has developed into a popular tourist site for Israelis and visitors from outside the region.
“Of course it’s a big loss,” local tourist official Adva Algarisi told the AFP news agency. “It’s close to the (Sea of Galilee), it’s close to other Christian places, holy places,” she said, noting the site also showed “how to live in peace with our neighbors.”
Peace treaty still in power
The Israeli government on Sunday said it “regrets” Jordan’s decision to not prolong the lease. Israeli troops have already chained the gates that most farmers use to access Baqura, known as Naharayim in Hebrew, on Saturday afternoon.
Ownership rights of Israelis with property in this area are expected to be respected by Jordan, according to officials from both countries.
Both sides announced that the farmers would be allowed to work the land at Ghamr, known in Israel as Tzofar, until May 2020, allowing them to bring in this year’s harvest. However, Jordan said that Israeli nationals would need to enter with a visa through official border crossings.
Jordan and Israel would also continue to honor the terms of the 1994 peace treaty.
Jordan’s King Abdullah has faced pressure to pursue a tougher course on Israel, with critics viewing the lease as an Israeli “occupation.” At least half of Jordan’s population are believed to be Palestinian refugees or their descendants.
dj/stb (AP, dpa, AFP)
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