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Jordan Takes Steps to Strengthen Its Ties with West Bank Arabs

The Jordanian-owned Cairo-Amman Bank will open a branch in Nablus shortly, the first Arab bank to operate in the administered territories since 1967. The Central Bank of Jordan announced Sunday that it has approved the project toward which the Israeli authorities have been amenable for some time.

The bank in Nablus will be the latest in a series of measures taken recently by Jordan to strengthen its ties with the Arab residents of the West Bank and reduce the influence of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the territory.

These measures include an hour-long broadcast from Amman on topics of general interest to West Bank residents, with a local weather report; the opening of a central market for agricultural products exported from the West Bank to Jordan, without restrictive quotas; and, according to reports from Amman, attempts to minimize emigration by West Bank residents. Jordan will also ease procedures for crossing the Jordan River bridges.

The bank in Nablus, however, is the most important development. Previous attempts to open an Arab bank in the territory failed because the Jordanians opposed control over it by the Bank of Israel. Negotiations between Israel and the Arab entrepreneurs are now in their final stages and an announcement of the bank’s opening is expected very soon.

The need for a local bank is recognized by both countries because of the growing trade relations between the West Bank and Jordan. Up to now, major transactions have been conducted by money changers or through overseas banks. According to Midhat Kan’an, manager of the Cairo-Amman Bank, it is difficult to do business through Israeli banks because they do not deal in Jordanian Dinars.

West Bank Arabs have been politically divided. Some are close to the Jordanian regime while others support the PLO. Leaflets urging stronger ties with Jordan were distributed in the West Bank Sunday. They were signed by a new group that claims to represent the “silent majority” in the territory.

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