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(photo credit: AP)
Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Jordan's King Abdullah II agreed here Wedesday to initiate immediate cooperation to move forward with building an international airport in Aqaba that would serve both countries.
Meeting at the Nobel Prize Laureates' Conference, they also discussed joint Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian economic projects, including Israeli-Jordanian cooperation in quarry exploration, mainly copper mining, and advancing a joint project to build a canal to carry water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, to prevent the latter from drying up.
Concerning the joint airport, Peres and Abdullah agreed as a first step on a meeting between Peres and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz and Basem Awadallah, director of the King's Office and Aqaba's governor.
An aide to Peres said that the meeting would take place in Israel next week. The airport project may see the closure of the Eilat airport and its integration into the new joint airport, the aide told The Jerusalem Post.
The new airport will have two terminals, one Jordanian and one Israeli, and will service international carriers.
Another meeting will be held to further cooperation in copper mining. Peres and Abdullah also discussed the establishment of free trade zones that could create thousands of new jobs for the Palestinians, Jordanians and Israelis along their common border.
"There are billions of investor dollars floating around in the air just waiting for an opportunity to invest," Peres said.
Speaking at the opening of the conference Wednesday, Abdullah said that "it is necessary to guarantee the creation of a viable Palestinian state next to a secure Israel." He stressed that lasting peace in the Middle East cannot be achieved unless through a final settlement to be negotiated peacefully on the basis of international resolutions that stipulate the existence of two states, Israel and Palestine.
"Nothing will prevent progress more than standing idly by while a humanitarian catastrophe is looming for the Palestinian people," he said, adding that everywhere in the world, progress was being weighed down by the legacy of the past. Abdullah urged the gathering of Nobel laureates to work to "globalize an effective response" to the world's burning issues.
"The Nobel Prize recognizes that the sources of human progress are to be found in every corner of the globe. The intellect, knowledge and talent of the world's Nobel laureates have brought better lives to millions of people in our world," he said, adding that the two-day conference provided a "unique opportunity to have them apply their highly innovative minds to some of the most pressing contemporary global problems."
Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, whose foundation co-hosted the conference, praised Abdullah for his tough stance against terrorism and his compassion for its victims.
"The theme of last year's Petra Conference was 'A World in Danger.' Sadly, our world is still in danger, growing danger, so we kept the title for this year's conference," Wiesel said. Indifference to the suffering of others is the biggest threat hanging over the world's head, Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, told the laureates.