First Published: 2003-06-02

 
Aqaba, centre of focus
 

Jordanian officials say security will be central concern for Jordan at historic Aqaba summit to be held on Wednesday.

 

Middle East Online

By Randa Habib - AQABA, Jordan

Aqaba is a free trade zone and has well-defined custom checkpoints

Security will be a central concern for Jordan which hosts Wednesday a key summit aimed at relaunching the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, officials said.

"The presence of the US president and the Israeli prime minister calls for important security measures because of the threats that are regularly made against their countries by terrorist groups," one official said.

That is why the small but well-protected southern Red Sea coastal town of Aqaba was chosen over the Jordanian capital Amman to host the summit between Bush, Sharon and Israeli prime minister Mahmud Abbas.

"Aqaba is a free trade zone and has well-defined custom checkpoints. This will help to control all those who enter the town," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Jordan has beefed up security around Aqaba, with Jordanian intelligence officers working closely with US security agents in the run-up to Wednesday's summit, security sources said.

Draconian measures have been deployed around two five-star hotels overlooking the northern tip of the Red Sea that will host the US, Palestinian and Israeli delegations in Aqaba, where security agents in civilian clothes outnumber soldiers.

The summit itself will take place in the beachfront royal palace, where access is strictly banned even on normal days.

"The palace was built on the borders with Israel, as a symbol of security between Aqaba and Eilat," a Jordanian official said.

The royal residence was the venue of many secret meetings in the 1970s between the late King Hussein and Yitzhak Rabin, who later became Israel's prime minister until his assassination in 1995, a year after signing the Jordan-Israel peace treaty.

Despite threats from Osama bin Laden's terror network, Al-Qaeda, and a recent condemnation by his top deputy, Jordanian officials are confident that they can prevent any attack from taking place in the kingdom.

In a May 21 broadcast of an audiotape, bin Laden's deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri called for Muslims to launch new anti-western attacks and condemned several Arab nations, including Jordan, for assisting in the US-led war on Iraq.

"We are always vigilant and attentive concerning the security of our country and we will be more so as we prepare for this historic summit," the Jordanian official said.

Aqaba built a reputation for tight security during the troubled decades of the Middle East conflict, and was always a haven even during the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars.

The coastal town is adjacent to the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat, which once belonged to Jordan and was known as Umm al-Rashrash, until Israel occupied it in 1950, two years after the creation of the Jewish state.

An unwritten agreement was later reached between Jordan and Israel guaranteeing that Aqaba and Eilat would be spared any military attack.

When Palestinian guerrillas used Jordan as a base to attack Israel from 1968 until 1970, Aqaba and Eilat continued to be spared, despite one incident in 1969 when rockets were fired on Eilat.

The shooting was considered a "mistake", brought quickly under control and Israel refrained from taking any action.

 

Libyan court sentences Kadhafi son to death in absentia

Two Bahrain police killed in 'terror' attack

Syrian army, Kurds push IS out of Hasakeh

Air raids and clashes shatter Yemen truce

Algeria bans football clubs from hiring foreign players

Kuwait sentences 4 Egyptians to death for murder

Turkish sergeant shot dead by Kurdish militant

Netanyahu: Iran a 'formidable' danger to Europe

Iran's conservative media slams French FM over export of tainted blood

NATO stands with Turkey in face of 'terrorism'

Iran urged to free Washington Post journalist

Mogherini due in Iran for nuclear deal talks

Erdogan: No peace process with Kurds amid attacks

Saudi FM denounces 'aggressive' Iran statements

Two suspected jihadists in Cairo raid

Saudi king supports Turkish military action

Morocco media boss to pay defamation damages for transport minister

Abbas vs. Dahlan: Rumblings in Ramallah raise questions on Palestinian politics

Iraq Shiite chief sees no change in Turkey stance on IS

Coalition jets accidentally hit pro-government Yemen forces

ISIS on agenda as Cameron leads trade mission to Southeast Asia

PKK 'never respected' peace process

Arab ministers to meet after Jerusalem clashes

US joins forces with Turkey: Agreement to forge 'ISIS-free zone' in Syria

Ahead of emergency meeting, Turkey ‘has not asked’ for NATO help

Obama vows to keep up pressure on Somalia's Shebab

EU foreign chief due in Saudi Arabia for talks on Iran, Yemen

Kurds cut key jihadist supply route in northern Syria

Turkey could "change the balance" in Syria

Rebel fire kills Syrian reporter in Damascus

Turkish tanks shell Kurdish-held Syria village

Saudi-led coalition suspends Yemen air war

13 killed in Mogadishu hotel car bomb attack

Bomb blast kills at least six people in Somalia capital

Death toll from Nile boat crash rises to 36

Pro-Hadi forces battle retreating rebels in south Yemen

Iraq forces retake university campus on edge of Ramadi

Egypt extends state of emergency in parts of Sinai Peninsula

Clashes erupt as Israel security forces raid Al-Aqsa mosque compound

Fatigue, but not defeat: Syria army faces manpower shortage

Fragile truce in danger as Turkey blames PKK for deadly attack

Turkey bombs IS in Syria, vows to keep fighting

Syrian opposition groups agree: Assad must go

Iran FM to visit Gulf, Iraq

'No progress' in Libya search for abducted Italians