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Jordan says it won't renew peace treaty land deal with Israel

Jordan says it won't renew peace treaty land deal with Israel

Jordan's King Abdullah II on Sunday said he has decided not to renew the lease on two small areas of Baqura and Ghamr, that was part of his country's landmark peace treaty with Israel.

King Abdullah, who has been under increasing public pressure to end the leasing arrangements with Israel, told senior politicians the kingdom wanted to exercise its "full sovereignty" over the two areas, Petra state news agency said.

Responding to the announcement, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he meant to "negotiate with Jordan for its extension" adding that "there is no doubt that the entire agreement is important and dear to both our countries".

The King said: "We have informed Israel of an end to the application of the peace treaty annexes regarding al-Baqura and al-Ghumar".

The decision comes a few days after Jordanians held demonstrations in Amman demanding that the territories be returned to Jordan and remain under its sovereignty.

He added, "Baqura and Ghumar have always been at the top of our priorities, and we have made a decision to put an end to the application of the peace treaty annexes regarding Baqura and Ghumar".

After the king's announcement on Sunday, Jordanians took to social media, calling it a "historic and wise decision".

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Under the terms of peace treaty, the lease would be automatically renewed unless either of the parties notified the other a year before expiry that it wished to terminate the agreement, the Jordanian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

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. The deadline for renewing the leases is set for October 25.

The deal was signed in November 1994 by Abdullah's father, King Hussein, and then-Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. Israel's ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories is also a source of anger among Jordanians. "Jordan needs Israel more than Israel needs Jordan", he said. They signed a trade treaty in 1996 and in 2014, agreed to a $500 million natural gas deal effective for 15 years.

Political ties have also become strained over the Middle East peace process.

Israel and Jordan reached an agreement to end the diplomatic fight in January, when a Jordanian government spokesperson said he had received from Israel an "official memorandum" apologizing for the deaths of the two Jordanians, as well as for the killing of a Jordanian judge in a separate incident in 2014.

In the 1994 peace treaty, Jordanian sovereignty over the area was confirmed but Israelis retained private land ownership and special provisions that allow free Israeli travel.