AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Sunday said he has decided not to renew parts of his country’s landmark peace treaty with Israel.
Abdullah released a statement that he intends to pull out of two annexes from the 1994 peace agreement that allowed Israel to lease two small areas, Baqura and Ghamr, from the Jordanians for 25 years. The leases expire next year, and the deadline for renewing them is Thursday.
The lands were leased to Jewish farmers early last century, but then became part of Jordan after the kingdom gained independence in 1946.
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.
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Under their peace agreement, Jordan agreed to grant Israeli farmers and military officers free access to the enclave.
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.”
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 last week.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that “Jordan reserved the right to receive the territory,” but said he expected to enter negotiations with Jordan “about the possibility of extending the existing agreement.”
Netanyahu said the “accord as a whole is an important thing,” and called the peace deals with Jordan and Egypt “anchors of regional stability.” He spoke at a memorial for the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who signed the peace deal with Jordan.
Israel’s former ambassador to Jordan, Oded Eran, said he was not surprised by Jordan’s decision, and said there was still time for the two countries to re-negotiate the agreement. He dismissed the possibility that Jordan might pull out of other parts of the broader peace treaty.
“For its own interests, the continuation of the adherence to the peace treaty is in Jordan’s interest as indeed it is in the interest of Israel,” Eran added.
Tensions between Israel and Jordan have mounted in recent months over such issues as the contested status of Jerusalem and its holy sites, stalled Mideast peace talks, and last year’s shooting of two Jordanian citizens by an Israeli embassy guard in Amman, which ignited a diplomatic crisis.
Relations thawed after Israel replaced its ambassador to Amman and Netanyahu met with Abdullah last summer to stress the importance of economic and security cooperation between the two countries.