Jordan, Israel OK peace pact


AMMAN, Jordan -- Jordan initialed a formal peace treaty with Israel yesterday, the second Arab country to give up its call for war and accept the Jewish state.

Syria and its subordinate Lebanon remain the only countries bordering Israel still formally at war with their neighbor. Israel has fought five wars with Arab states since its creation in 1948.

President Clinton will travel to the Middle East to witness the formal signing of the peace treaty late next week, according to the White House. It will be his first visit to the region as president.

"I hope and pray this is something we leave behind for all the generations to come -- to enjoy peace, human dignity, a chance to live and achieve," said Jordan's King Hussein at the initialing ceremony yesterday.

The peace treaty was expected. After decades of secret meetings, the leaders of Jordan and Israel met openly in Washington July 25 to pledge themselves to a treaty. But the swiftness of the pact was further proof that the unity of the Arab countries once firmly allied against Israel has fallen into disarray.

King Hussein's formal embrace of Israel now isolates Syria. And it abandons the pretense of coordinating his moves with the Palestinians.

Through its action, Jordan also is bidding for further approval from the United States. It has had strained relations with Washington since it sided with Iraq in the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

"This was an extraordinary achievement that must be welcomed by the friends of peace," Mr. Clinton said at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland yesterday. He praised the courage of King Hussein and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

In Damascus, however, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa warned against trying to capitalize on Syria's position.

"We hope the Israeli government will realize the fact that without achieving peace with Syria and Lebanon, there will be no peace in the region. . . . This is the reality," he said, according to wire reports.

Under the terms of the peace treaty with Jordan, Israel will relinquish 152 square miles of territory captured during the 1967 Six-Day War.

Jordan and Israel also agreed to build a dam on the Yarmuk River and share the waters of the Yarmuk and Jordan Rivers, the main water supply for both countries.

"No one lost. No one won," Mr. Rabin said at a news conference after the ceremony. The countries agreed to recognize the 1921 international border between Transjordan and the British Mandate of Palestine, "with minor modifications," Mr. Rabin said.

About 18 square miles of the area will be leased from Jordan by Israel for 25 years, according to Israeli officials. The Jewish agricultural settlement of Tzofar and a facility of the Israel Electric Corp. are on that land.

The issues were not expected to be contentious. But it took an all-night session of personal negotiations between King Hussein and Mr. Rabin in Amman to settle them.

The announcement of their agreement so soon yesterday morning surprised the people of Jordan and Israel. Jordanians had expected a more drawn-out process, with an eye to waiting for Syria. Israelis were discouraged about the whole peace process after the kidnapping and slaying of an Israeli soldier last week by Hamas extremists.

The agreement reached 13 months ago by Israel and the Palestinians is under severe strain, criticized by Israelis and Palestinian radicals alike. Thousands of Palestinian Hamas members marched yesterday on the third day of protests in Gaza against the Palestine Liberation Organization.

But yesterday, the warm relations between Israeli and Jordanian leaders was evident. Mr. Rabin, normally dour and stiff in his public meetings with Arabs, was cheerful and almost ebullient in the ceremony at the Hashemiyeh Palace, 10 miles outside Amman.

King Hussein made a point of kissing on both cheeks Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who this week shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Mr. Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat.

"There is no doubt that for Israelis, there is a very soft point and warm admiration for the courage of King Hussein," Mr. Rabin said in his formal remarks.

King Hussein returned the accolade: "I believe we are coming together in the right way. . . . I have been proud to be associated with you in these efforts," said the king.

Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 after the Camp David accords. It was shunned by the other Arab countries for doing so, and Egyptian President Anwar el Sadat was assassinated partly for making that peace.

Israel has long said that it wants peace with all the surrounding Arab countries. But it is reluctant to give up land its armies captured from Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

The West Bank was captured from Jordan, but King Hussein subsequently gave up his claim to the land in favor of the Palestinians.

The 15-page peace treaty initialed yesterday by Mr. Rabin and Jordanian Prime Minister Abdul Salam Majali stipulates that ambassadors will be exchanged between the two countries within five weeks, according to Israel television.

The Israeli Cabinet approved the treaty hours after it was initialed.

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