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Israel, Jordan Forge More Ties As Economic Summit Approaches

As the date for an economic summit of Middle Eastern and North African leaders approaches, Israel and Jordan announced that they will present plans for joint projects at the meeting.

The projects include development of the Jordan Rift Valley and other sites along the 400-mile Israeli-Jordanian border.

The economic summit, which will bring together Israeli, American and Arab officials in the Jordanian capital of Amman for meetings starting Oct. 29, follows up on a similar meeting held last year in Casablanca, Morocco.

One of the goals of the conference is to raise funds for joint regional projects.

On Thursday, Israeli and American officials said that plans for the establishment of two banking institutions to develop the Middle East will be announced at the Amman summit.

One of the institutions, to be based in Cairo, would reportedly be created along the lines of the regional development bank that American officials have long sought.

The second institution would operate under the auspices of an economic working group established at Casablanca last year.

The Cairo-based bank was announced by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who traveled on Wednesday to Amman, where he held separate meetings with King Hussein and Crown Prince Hassan to discuss the joint Israeli-Jordanian projects.

Peres and Hussein also discussed setting up and airport to serve the neighboring cities of Eilat and Aqaba, as well as the establishment of a free- trade zone in Israel, Jordan and Egypt, Israel reported.

Peres was accompanied on the trip by Trade Minister Michael Harish, Tourism Minister Uzi Baram and Transportation Minister Yisrael Kessar.

After their meetings with the Jordanian leaders, the Israeli ministers announced that the two countries will sign a trade agreement next week and a transportation accord the week after.

The transportation agreement will make it possible for Israelis to drive into Jordan in their private cars.

But lines will also operate between the two countries as a result of the accord.

The Amman summit is seen as significant because, like last year’s Casablanca meeting, it confirms Israel’s growing role in the world – and particularly the Middle East’s – economic arena.

It also reflects growing recognition of Israel by the Arab world.

Palestinian officials in the Gaza Strip said Wednesday that they would attend the Amman meeting, despite reported threats that they would boycott it.

The Palestinian Authority official in charge of economic issues, Ahmed Karia, said Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat would head the delegation to Amman.

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