Jordan has put on hold plans dating back seven years to set up a joint airport with Israel at the Red Sea resort of Aqaba, citing the faltering peace process and political upheaval in the region, a senior official told the Jordan Times on Monday.
"Differences over security and sovereignty matters concerning the projected joint venture as well as the gloomy political climate have altered those plans," the official told the daily, referring to Israel's attacks on Palestinians, which Jordan has roundly condemned.
The official added that feasibility studies for the joint airport were outdated, in light of the launching earlier this year of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone.
"We have our own schemes for revamping and expanding the existing international airport, which dates back to the 1970s," he added.
The Aqaba Peace Airport, conceived in the 1994 peace treaty with the Jewish state, was expected to be the showcase of bilateral cooperation.
The two countries reached an agreement in 1997 to proceed with the project, but since then it has faltered.
The proposed airport would be on Jordanian soil and initial plans provided for a terminal to serve Eilat-bound flights. Eilat is a stone's throw from Aqaba, some 350 kilometers south of Amman.
The paper quoted Israeli officials as saying last week that the project had become unfeasible.
The Jewish state's narrow airstrip in Eilat could not be expanded due to ecological, topographical and logistical hurdles, said the report.
Doubts about the success of the Peace Airport surfaced as early as 1998.
In a report by the paper in March that year, experts voiced doubt that utilizing Aqaba airport for Israeli flights, as envisaged under the 1997 agreement, would be commercially feasible in the future.
"There is a certain measure of doubt that, if the pilot project is an indication of things to come in the future, the whole project may not be economically feasible from a commercial point of view," said the director general of the Civil Aviation Authority at the time.
Jordanian authorities have complained that the Israeli side has not respected the terms of the agreement, said the report – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )