|Wikileaks:||View 02AMMAN7255 at Wikileaks.org|
|Tags:||EAIR PREL ELTN EWWT PREF BEXP JO IS|
|Redacted:||This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 AMMAN 007255 SIPDIS USDOC/4520/ITA/MAC/NOE/COBERG TREASURY FOR MILLS/PIPATANAGUL TDA FOR STEINGASS, SIGLER DEPT FOR PRM E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/15/2007 TAGS: EAIR, PREL, ELTN, EWWT, PREF, BEXP, JO, IS SUBJECT: JORDAN: PEACE AIRPORT AND OTHER TRANSPORT ISSUES REF: AMMAN 5331 Classified By: DCM Gregory L. Berry. Reasons 1.5 (b) and (d) ------- SUMMARY ------- 1. (SBU) According to Jordan's Transportation Minister, the Jordanian government remains ready to work with Israel on a plan to allow domestic flights bound for Eilat to land in Aqaba (REFTEL). The Ministry has also prepared contingency plans for a possible conflict in Iraq. Regarding Royal Jordanian Airlines (RJ), Dahabi, a former CEO of RJ, said the government had subsidized the airline over the past year, but hoped those costs would be one-off expenses. END SUMMARY -------------------------------------- ISRAELI FLIGHTS TO AQABA: WE ARE READY -------------------------------------- 2. (SBU) In a December 11 meeting, Transportation Minister Nader Dahabi told the Charge that Jordan was ready to accommodate Israeli domestic flights at Aqaba airport following a decision by the Israeli government to discontinue such flights into Eilat airport for safety and environmental reasons (REFTEL). He said that prior to the call for new Israeli elections in November, he had received a letter from then Israeli Transportation Minister Sneh requesting a meeting to discuss the idea, a revival, after a fashion, of the Peace Airport in Aqaba called for in the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty. Dahabi said that a meeting (reported in reftel) was held without Sneh's participation, but with both sides' Civil Aviation Authorities, the directors of the Eilat and Aqaba airports and Aqaba Chief Commissioner Aqel Biltaji attending. 3. (sbu) As a result of the meeting, there appeared to be a broad consensus to move forward based on the Jordanian proposal described in reftel. However, the call for early elections seems to have put off the Israeli side's ability to pursue discussions. Dahabi added that the MOU from a 1998 pilot project could act as the basis for any agreement, and reiterated the government's readiness to continue talks after the elections. This tracks with recent conversations with CAA Director Hanna Najjar and Aqaba International Airport Director Omar al-Manha who have told us that they are ready to go once the Israelis are. ----------------------------- "DOING OUR HOMEWORK" RE: IRAQ ----------------------------- 4. (C) Regarding transportation contingency plans in response to possible military action in Iraq, Dahabi said that he, PM Abul Ragheb, and Minister of Planning Awadallah, "had done their homework" to see how such an action would affect Jordan's transport sector. He said they were very realistic, sensing that at the beginning of a conflict, "things would be very hard, but would ease up". Dahabi said that he has been direct with the industry about relying too much on Iraq, and has told private and public sector transportation interests that they have to look for other markets. He said that he had worked with maritime, civil aviation, and public and private companies to find ways to deal with any inflow of refugees should hostilities drive them into Jordan. He stressed the government was determined to not build refugee camps; rather, it would find ways to, for example, get third-country refugees back to their native countries. Dahabi said the government was working with NGOs as well, and would be well prepared when the time comes. (Comment: Dahabi's comments reflect what we have heard from GOJ and UN contacts. In addition, we have heard separately that IOM has contracted with Jordanian bus and shipping companies to transfer up to 100,000 TCN's from Iraq to Jordan. End Comment.) -------------------- RJ: STILL SUBSIDIZED -------------------- 5. (SBU) Dahabi acknowledged that Royal Jordanian Airlines reported the first three quarters of 2002 were profitable, but he cautioned against reading too much into the figures. He said the auditor's figures, which will be released in April, will be more comprehensive, as they will include the "slow months" from October through December. More important, he said the government has provided a number of subsidies to the airline to address the impact of the September 11 attacks on tourism and air travel. He said the value of these amounted to $45 million. For example, Dahabi said, the government was carrying third party insurance on RJ in the event a hijacked RJ plane was crashed into a building, a policy that makes the government liable for $1 billion, and would cost RJ $3 million per year. He said the government urged RJ to layoff 500 employees, who would have to be compensated to the tune of $7 million, and the GOJ assumed those costs. In addition to other miscellaneous costs, the Ministry of Finance has also, in the interests of cash flow, postponed collecting $14 million owed by RJ. In any case, he said, these were one-off expenses, and expected that RJ would "be okay" in the end. (Note: Dahabi also updated us on the status of the Boeing/Airbus offers, reported SEPTEL. End note) -------------- HELP FOR QIZS? -------------- 6. (SBU) Regarding shipping challenges, Dahabi said he heard from various private sector representatives that they were "worried" about shipping delays through Israeli ports. He said that he would like to talk to Israeli officials about how to ease QIZ exports through the port of Haifa. He said that despite efforts to develop Aqaba as an option for QIZ exporters, Haifa clearly remained the favored port, particularly for exporters in Northern Jordan who ship to the Eastern U.S., as "you can always find a ship bound to the U.S. in Haifa; you can not always find one in Aqaba". ------- COMMENT ------- 7. (C) We defer to Embassy Tel Aviv as to whether a new Israeli government might be interested in pursuing the option of using Aqaba airport. The Israeli ambassador in Amman tells us that the political levels in the GOI have generally been supportive, but that the Israeli CAA has resisted the use of Aqaba for "special interest reasons." Whatever the dynamics in the GOI may be, the Jordanians are ready to move (and perhaps, CAA Director Najjar hinted, accommodate some of those "special interests"), but firmly believe it is up to Israel to make the next move. --- BIO --- 8. (SBU) Dahabi, who has been in the Abul Ragheb cabinet since 2001, was CEO of RJ for 7 years prior to his appointment to the government. Before that he was an air force general. He has a Masters in Engineering from Cranfield in the UK, and a Masters in Public Administration from Auburn. GNEHM
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