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Israeli Army Contradicts Jordan's King on Enclave Lands, Says Lease Extended – Reports

© Ariel SchalitThe border sign in the Naharayim park on Israel-Jordan border, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. T
The border sign in the Naharayim park on Israel-Jordan border, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. T - Sputnik International
Earlier, King Abdullah II of Jordan announced the termination of a land lease agreement which allowed Israeli farmers to farm on a Jordanian enclave south of the Dead Sea, with the enclave expected to return to Jordanian control 25 years after the signing of the 1994 Jordan-Israel peace treaty.

The Israeli military contradicted on Sunday Amman's announcement that a Jordanian enclave allowed to be used by Israeli farmers will be returned to Jordanian jurisdiction, saying the lease agreement has been extended until next April, although with new restrictions.

"In continuation of the deliberation on the diplomatic arrangements in the Tzofar enclave, security forces are protecting the area and working together with the community," the Israel Defence Forces said in a press statement cited by the Times of Israel, using the Hebrew name for the territory of Ghamr.

"The farmers' work in the enclave is continuing subject to agreements and coordination," the IDF statement added.

The military did not elaborate on the terms and conditions of the lease agreement extension.

The Israeli foreign ministry later tweeted Tel Aviv's "regret" over Jordan's "decision to terminate the annexes" to the peace treaty, but added that "the Government of Jordan will continue to respect private ownership rights in Naharayim [Baqoura]," and that Jordan will "allow Israeli farmers to harvest the crops that were planted before the annex expired" in Tzofar (Ghamr).

Jordan has yet to make a statement on any possible agreement.

Earlier, media reported that Israel was preparing to return the two parcels of agricultural land south of the Dead Sea, after negotiations between Tel Aviv and Amman failed to achieve a breakthrough. Amman had first announced its intention to take the land back in October 2018.

The territories have been used by the Israelis over the past quarter century under the 1994 peace treaty, which allowed for private farming in the area, although Jordan retained formal sovereignty over the lands.

AFP reported earlier Sunday that Israeli farmers were barred from entering the Jordanian border enclaves as King Abdullah II announced "full sovereignty" over the territories.

"I announce the end of the annex of the two areas, Ghumar and Al-Baqoura, in the peace treaty and impose our full sovereignty on every inch of them," the king said earlier Sunday.

More than half of Jordanians have expressed their opposition to the 1994 treaty in recent polls, with relations between the two countries regularly complicated by diplomatic conflicts and violence, including a 2017 incident in which an Israeli Embassy guard in Amman killed two Jordanians. Jordan temporarily withdrew its ambassador from Israel in October over the detention of two Jordanian nationals without trial, with the ambassador returning after the Jordanians were released. A 1997 incident saw a Jordanian soldier open fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the farm land, killing seven and prompting the king to issue an apology.

In September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to annex the Jordan Valley, which comprises almost one-third of the territory of the West Bank, if re-elected.

Israel has been in de-facto control over the two Jordanian enclaves for over 70 years.

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