Jordan on Monday hit out at Israel’s move to open a new international airport close the two countries’ shared border near the Red Sea, saying it would threaten the kingdom’s airspace.
“Jordan rejects the establishment of the Israeli airport in its current location,” head of Jordan’s Civil Aviation Regulatory Commission Haitham Misto said, according to state media.
Misto said the airport violated “international standards regarding respect for the sovereignty of airspace and territory of other countries.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the opening ceremony earlier in the day of the Ramon Airport, meant to boost tourism in the Jewish state and serve as an emergency alternative to Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport.
The Ilan & Asaf Ramon Airport airport is named for Israel’s first astronaut, and for his F-16 pilot son.
“The airport will be a focal point of activity, with domestic and international flights. It will give us further strategic capabilities in times of normal activity and when needed, in times of emergency,” Netanyahu said at the ceremony.
The facility, the first airport built from scratch in Israel since the state’s founding, will initially handle only domestic flights, operated by Israeli carriers Arkia and Israir. It is due to welcome scheduled international flights in March.
The $500 million facility is located alongside the main highway leading north from the Red Sea resort city of Eilat, about 18 kilometers (11 miles) north of the city and the adjacent Jordanian port of Aqaba.
The single-runway airport is named after Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut, who was killed in the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster in 2003, and his son, Asaf, an Israel Air Force F-16 pilot who died in a training accident in 2009.
Jordan first voiced its objection to the new Israeli airport when construction began in 2013. It has complained that aircraft landing at Ramon, which is situated very close to the border to the east, could invade its airspace. The Hashemite Kingdom’s own King Hussein International Airport in the Red Sea city of Aqaba, which sees a small amount of air traffic, lies a few kilometers to the southeast.
Misto said Jordan had notified the International Civil Aviation Organization of “the kingdom’s strong objection.”
The kingdom, he said, had called on the ICAO to “take all necessary measures to ensure that Israel complies with international standards.”
Misto said the committee had been in touch with the Israel Airports Authority and “informed them that the decision to operate the airport should not be taken unilaterally until all outstanding matters are resolved.”
Jordan “reserves all options to ensure the defense of the kingdom’s interests and protection,” he added.
Hebrew-language media reports have said that a 26-meter (85 foot) high, 4.5-kilometer (2.8 mile) “smart” anti-missile fence has been installed to help protect Ramon, which is adjacent to the border with Jordan.
The IAA refused to comment on those reports.
The Ramon airport will replace Eilat’s current airport — used almost exclusively for domestic flights — and the basic airport at Ovda, 60 kilometers north of the city, which receives international traffic, mainly of holidaymakers from Europe. Ovda, which mainly serves as a military airfield, is nestled deep in the Arava desert, far from main transportation routes.
Eilat is expecting to see a boost in tourism. Initially, Ramon will welcome about 2 million passengers a year with plans to expand to 4.5 million.
Currently, about 1.4 million Israelis visit Eilat annually, and some 300,000 foreign tourists fly in, mainly from Europe.