Jordanian king, prince visit and pray at second enclave returned by Israel

After trip to Naharaiym earlier in the week, Abdullah and Hussein arrive at Tzofar following end of Israel’s 25-year lease

Jordan's King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Hussein pray at the Tzofar enclave after the return of the territory from Israel, November 16, 2019 (Courtesy)
Jordan's King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Hussein pray at the Tzofar enclave after the return of the territory from Israel, November 16, 2019 (Courtesy)

Jordanian King Abdullah II and his son Hussein visited the Tzofar enclave on Saturday, one of two territories evacuated by Israel this week after its 25-year lease on the land expired.

The two, accompanied by Jordan’s army chief and other senior military brass, prayed at the site. The royals were briefed on the territory’s historical and strategic significance.

After the visit, Abdullah tweeted: “Jordanian sovereignty over Jordanian land above all else.”

The visit followed Abdullah and Crown Prince Hussein’s trip on Monday to the Naharayim enclave, a day after annexes in the landmark 1994 Jordan-Israel peace agreement — which had created special arrangements for Israeli farmers and their employees to work lands in Naharayim and the southern Tzofar enclave — were terminated.

For some 25 years, Jordan and Israel had implemented the annexes of the peace deal regarding Naharayim and Tzofar, which are sovereign Jordanian territories. In late 2018, however, Jordanian officials informed their Israeli counterparts of the kingdom’s intention not to renew them.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said Monday that Jordan had made an offer to Israel to purchase lands privately owned by Israelis in Naharayim, but said the Jewish state turned it down.

An agricultural vehicle in the Tzofar area in the Arava region on the Israel-Jordan border, leased to Israel by Jordan as part of the 1994 peace agreement, in February 2007. (Chaver83/Wikimedia Commons)

“During the consultations with Israel, we offered to buy the land, if they wish to sell it. They said they do not want to sell it. Therefore, there was no sale,” he told a press conference at the headquarters of the Jordanian Foreign Ministry in Amman.

The Jordanian Foreign Ministry has said the Hashemite Kingdom will respect private property rights of Israelis in Naharayim.

According to the ministry, Israelis who prove they own property in Naharayim will be allowed to enter the enclave, but will be required to cross into Jordan through one of its major border crossings.

The ministry, however, has not clarified whether Israelis who own property there would be permitted to work their land.

Under the now-terminated annexes, farmers had been able to access their lands without passing through a major border crossing and obtaining a formal visa.

Safadi also said Jordan was still committed to its peace treaty with Israel.

A picture taken from the Israeli side of the border shows Jordanian soldiers raising the national flag ahead of a ceremony at the Jordan Valley site of Naharayim, also known as Baqura in Jordan, east of the Jordan river on November 10, 2019 (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

“We are committed to the peace agreement,” he said, noting that it was enshrined in Jordanian law. “Peace is a strategic Arab choice. Palestine, Jordan all Arab and Islamic states have repeatedly announced that they want a permanent and comprehensive peace, which is acceptable to the people.”

Jordan is one of two Arab states which have formal peace treaties and diplomatic relations with Israel.

While security ties between the two countries have flourished, political relations have soured over a number of issues including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge in September to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, if he is given another term in office.

Jordan has long supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which would include the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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