|Fifth Anniversary of Israeli-Jordanian Peace
(Communicated by Foreign Ministry Spokesman)
Today (Tuesday), 26.10.99, marks the fifth anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty between the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan by the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the late King Hussein, who both recorded an important chapter in the history of conciliation and peace in our region. The Government of Israel and the Foreign Ministry will strive to continue the development of relations with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, in all spheres and at all levels. The close relationship which has evolved between Foreign Minister David Levy and his Jordanian counterpart, Abdel Ilah al-Khatib, are a prime example of this reality. In the past five years, both countries have endeavored to fill the agreement with content, as detailed in the following statement issued by the Embassy of Israel in Amman.
Commerce – Formal trade between Israel and Jordan began with the July 1996 signing of an agreement on bilateral commerce. In 1996, Israel exported $9 million of goods to Jordan, and imported a total of $5 million from the Hashemite Kingdom. In the following year, these totals increased by 130%, to $20 million and $12.5 million respectively. In 1998, Israel exported $25 million in goods to Jordan, while importing $17 million of Jordanian goods in the same period – marking a 30% rise from the previous year. During the first half of 1999, $17.5 million in bilateral trade has been effected.
Freight Commerce – Israeli merchants have made increasing use of the Aqaba port in their trade with third countries, as evident in the container traffic at the Arava terminal – mostly en route to the port of Aqaba. In 1998, container traffic at the Arava terminal increased by 218% over the previous year. During the first nine months of 1999, there was a 156% increase in traffic, as compared to the similar period last year. As part of the effort to promote this trend, the Israel Export Institute and the Jordanian Ministry of Transportation recently (19-20.10.99) hosted 40 Israeli businessmen at a workshop designed to acquaint them with the possibilities of international trade via the Aqaba port.
Meanwhile, the level of reciprocal freight remains stable, with $7 million of Jordanian goods reaching third countries via Israeli ports in the first eight months of 1999 – compared to about $10 million during the same period in 1998, and $8.5 million the year before.
Economic Cooperation – An estimated 25 factories, employing about 3,500 Jordanian laborers, are currently operating under the joint auspices of Israeli and Jordanian business concerns – manufacturing mostly textiles, luggage, electronics, batteries and jewelry. While some of these businesses are situated in Amman, the majority of them are located in the Irbid Qualifying Industrial Zone, whose success has encouraged both countries to request that the United States grant similar status to other production zones.
Consequently, in 1998, the United States Government extended QIZ status to the Jordan Gateway area south of the Sheikh Hussein Bridge and, this year, approval was given for three new QIZs in Karak, A-Dulayl (northeast of Zarqa), and Sahab (south of Amman). A fourth area in Aqaba will soon be proposed for the approval of the US Government.
In an effort to promote Israeli investment in the Hashemite Kingdom and economic cooperation, a delegation of major Israeli industrialists recently visited Jordan (9.9.99), where they met with King Abdullah and a number of senior Government ministers.
Agriculture – In October 1998, the Israel Foreign Ministry and the Jordanian Ministry of Agriculture signed an agreement to create an experimental farm in Karak to be devoted to raising Awasi sheep – of which 225 were delivered to Jordan – with the intent of increasing the quantity of meat and milk they provide as well as their overall quality. Throughout the duration of the project, there has been close contact in the areas of instruction and knowledge transfer between Israeli and Jordanian experts and, in early 2000, a modern milking facility will be constructed on site with equipment from Israel. Also next year, the project will move into its second phase, within which its scope will be expanded to encompass Assaf sheep as well.
Communications – During the 16.9.99 visit to Jordan of Communications Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a financial dispute between Bezek International and the Jordan Telecommunication Company was resolved: Bezek will pay JTC $4.35 million to cover outstanding debts, and Israel and Jordan will each contribute $1.5 million to a fund for the development of joint communications projects – first and foremost, the linkage of the two countries by a fiber-optic connection capable of simultaneously carrying 500,000 calls, which will significantly improve the quality of Jordan’s telephone service with both Israel and Europe.
Tourism – During the visit 8.9.99 visit to Jordan of Tourism Minister Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, it was agreed that Israel and Jordan would cooperate closely on tourism issues – including joint marketing efforts, and the coordination of events – relating to the wave of tourists expected to visit the region in 2000. It was further agreed that both countries would examine the possibility of reducing bureaucratic procedures involved in obtaining entry visas and in crossing at border terminals.
In 1998, as in 1996 and 1997, about 125,000 Israeli tourists visited Jordan. Israeli tourism accounts for 11.1% of all foreign tourism in the Kingdom.
Transportation – Contacts on the construction of a joint airport in Aqaba-Eilat and the re-construction of the Allenby Bridge – the latter, with Japanese funding – are continuing.