Jordan Bars Entry to Israeli Economic Delegation

Delegation to tripartite conference on the Dead Sea was not allowed to enter the kingdom for unspecified reasons.

Jordan prevented an Israeli delegation from crossing the Allenby Bridge on Sunday to attend an economic cooperation conference with Jordanian and Palestinian colleagues. What had been planned as a tripartite gathering to discuss economic issues concerning the Dead Sea became a bilateral, Jordanian-Palestinian parley only.

"People sat politely on the bus and chatted for four and a half hours," a member of the Israeli delegation related. At one point everyone concluded that in a state like Jordan, the claim that this was a bureaucratic foul-up doesn't hold, and that something else was going on."

The would-be conference-goer said the assumption is that the action was a sign from Jordan that it is not willing to cooperate with Israel on strategic projects at this stage. A few members of the Israeli delegation said they were told at the border crossing that the security precautions necessary to permit their entry into Jordan had not been arranged.

Sources knowledgeable about the preparations for the conference refused to identify the individuals who were refused entry, but according to the program schedule the delegation was to include representatives from energy, infrastructure, water and agricultural companies, as well as from academia and various ministries. The conference agenda focused on the planned Red Sea-Dead Sea canal, and agricultural and tourism development in the northern Dead Sea area.

The two-day conference was sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Amman Center for Peace and Development and the Netanya Academic College's Dan Abraham Center for Strategic Dialogue.

The college confirmed that Jordan did not permit the Israeli delegation to enter its borders but did not offer additional information, and said the matter is under review. No response was received from the Jordanian Embassy in Tel Aviv by press time.

Zohar Blumenkrantz adds: Israel is dragging its feet on talks over increasing flights between Amman and Tel Aviv, a Royal Jordanian Airlines official said yesterday.

The source said the failure to resume the talks between the Jordanian and Israeli civil aviation agencies was caused by the resignation of the director of Israel's Civil Aviation Authority, Udi Zohar. The CAA said that had nothing to do with it.

"Who are we going to hold aviation talks with first - Jordan, Italy, Ukraine or Germany - all of whom want to meet with us?" a senior CAA official said. Jordan wants to add two weekly scheduled flights to Ben-Gurion Airport to the schedule. "With all due respect to the Jordanians," the Israeli official said, "there's no lack of capacity on the Ben-Gurion-Amman route."