(Communicated by the Vice Prime Minister’s Bureau)

Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Petra today (Wednesday, 21 June 2006) during the Nobel Prize Laureates’ conference.  The two discussed joint Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian economic projects, especially the construction of an international airport in Aqaba that would serve both Israel and Jordan; Israeli-Jordanian cooperation in mineral exploration, mainly copper mining; as well as advancing a joint project to build a conduit to carry water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea.

The two agreed to initiate immediate cooperation to move forward with the joint airport project, starting with a meeting with Peres, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, Director of the King’s Office Basem Awadallah, and Aqaba Governor Khalid Awadallah. Another meeting is to be held to further cooperation between Israel and Jordan in copper mining. Peres and the king also discussed the establishment of free trade zones that could create thousands of new jobs for Palestinians, Jordanians, and Israelis.

Peres and Abdullah also discussed the situation between Israel and the Palestinians. Peres stressed that the main issue with the Palestinians is the large number of armed factions operating on the ground, which "exacerbate the sense of uncertainty and increase terrorist activity in the region." He added that those who claim that Hamas had won are mistaken, saying, "Hamas might have won the elections, but it is unable to govern and cannot govern, because its solutions cannot be implemented and only prolong human suffering and bloodshed."