Last Israeli farmers leave enclave after Jordan deal ends

Israeli soldiers gather at the crossing checkpoint on the Israeli-Jordanian border near Moshav Tsofar in the Arava valley, south of the Dead Sea basin, on April 30 2020. (AFP/Menahem Kahana)
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Updated 30 April 2020

Last Israeli farmers leave enclave after Jordan deal ends

  • Ghumar, known as Tsofar in Hebrew, is a Jordanian territory south of the Dead Sea that was occupied by Israel during the Six Day War of 1967
  • As part of the 1994 peace agreement, Jordan agreed to lease both places to Israel for a renewable 25 years, with a one-year notice period for either party

TSOFAR: Israeli farmers left an agricultural enclave in neighboring Jordan possibly for the last time Thursday, as the extension of a lease enabling their use of the border land expired.
Ghumar, known as Tsofar in Hebrew, is a Jordanian territory south of the Dead Sea that was occupied by Israel during the Six Day War of 1967.
Under the 1994 peace deal, Jordan retained sovereignty over the area, along with another territory called Baqura, seized when Israeli forces infiltrated Jordan in 1950.
As part of the 1994 agreement, Jordan agreed to lease both places to Israel for a renewable 25 years, with a one-year notice period for either party.
The lease expired in November after Jordan’s King Abdullah II notified Israel that it wanted to take back the two areas.
His decision came as the country suffers high unemployment, inflation and poverty, exacerbated by the presence of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the war in neighboring Syria.
Despite the peace agreement, relations with Israel have been tense in recent years.
Baqura, or Naharayim in Hebrew, was reclaimed in November.
But the kingdom gave Israeli farmers six months to finish growing their crops in Ghumar, a period that expired on Thursday.
Erez Gibori, a farmer from Ghumar whose fields were in the enclave, told AFP Jordan’s decision to take back the lands went “against the spirit of the peace agreement.”
Gibori said the last farmers, who had grown peppers in the enclave, had left it by Thursday afternoon.
Opinion polls have repeatedly found that the peace treaty with Israel is overwhelmingly opposed by Jordanians, more than half of whom are of Palestinian origin.


German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

Updated 24 November 2020

German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

  • Germany insists it acted correctly in boarding a Turkish ship to enforce arms embargo of Libya
  • Turkey summoned European diplomats to complain at the operation

BERLIN: Germany’s defense minister on Tuesday rejected Turkey’s complaints over the search of a Turkish freighter in the Mediterranean Sea by a German frigate participating in a European mission, insisting that German sailors acted correctly.
Sunday’s incident prompted Turkey to summon diplomats representing the European Union, Germany and Italy and assert that the Libya-bound freighter Rosaline-A was subjected to an “illegal” search by personnel from the German frigate Hamburg. The German ship is part of the European Union’s Irini naval mission, which is enforcing an arms embargo against Libya.
German officials say that the order to board the ship came from Irini’s headquarters in Rome and that Turkey protested while the team was on board. The search was then ended.
Turkey says the search was “unauthorized and conducted by force.”
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer backed the German crew’s actions.
“It is important to me to make really clear that the Bundeswehr soldiers behaved completely correctly,” she said during an appearance in Berlin. “They did what is asked of them in the framework of the European Irini mandate.”
“That there is this debate with the Turkish side points to one of the fundamental problems of this European mission,” Kramp-Karrenbauer added, without elaborating. “But it is very important to me to say clearly here that there are no grounds for these accusations that are now being made against the soldiers.”
This was the second incident between Turkey and naval forces from a NATO ally enforcing an arms blockade against Libya.
In June, NATO launched an investigation over an incident between Turkish warships and a French naval vessel in the Mediterranean, after France said one of its frigates was “lit up” three times by Turkish naval targeting radar when it tried to approach a Turkish civilian ship suspected of involvement in arms trafficking.
Turkey supports a UN-backed government in Tripoli against rival forces based in the country’s east. It has complained that the EU naval operation focuses its efforts too much on the Tripoli administration and turns a blind eye to weapons sent to the eastern-based forces.
In Ankara, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Irini was “flawed from the onset.”
“It is not based on firm international legal foundations,” Akar said. He renewed Turkey’s criticism of the German ship’s actions.
“The incident was against international laws and practices. It was wrong,” he said.
Kramp-Karrenbauer stressed that “Turkey is still an important partner for us in NATO.” Turkey being outside the military alliance would make the situation even more difficult, she argued, and Turkish soldiers are “absolutely reliable partners” in NATO missions.
But she conceded that Turkey poses “a big challenge” because of how its domestic politics have developed and because it has its “own agenda, which is difficult to reconcile with European questions in particular.”