Egyptian and Jordanian delegates call for the military to reopen Taba Heights

Bassem Abou Alabass and Dalia Farouk , Tuesday 12 Jul 2011

Meeting in Cairo leads to recommendation the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces reopen the Sinai port to bring an end to a 25-day sit-in by workers and Jordanian tourists

Workers at Jordanian tourist companies protest at Taba Heights port

Egyptian Foreign Ministry officials have met with representatives of Jordanian tourism companies and agreed to recommend that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) reopen Taba Heights port, which was closed last month.

A Jordanian delegation in Cairo met with the Egyptian Consul in Aqaba, representatives of the Ministry of Transportation, Tourism, National Security and the director of the Sinai port. The port has been closed since late June after the Ministry of Transportation said the port was letting incoming ships breach licensing rules which limit their operations to transporting tourists.

All parties agreed that Taba Heights’ port should reopen to tourist shipping and suggested the port’s license be amended to allow higher transit numbers.

"I think [the SCAF] will respond to the recommendation which was approved," Thaer Darwish, chairman of the Jordanian Federation of Tourism Companies, told a press conference after the meeting.

He added that it is in the common interest of Egypt and Jordan to reopen the port and reactivate tourism between them.

Darwish said that Taba port attracts around 250,000 tourists to Egypt each year, and Egyptian and Jordanian tourism companies have incurred losses worth more than US$50 million since the closure.

"The meeting was positive, at least it made clear to all that there is no any security objection to the opening," Tarek Rehan, director of Taba Heights, told Ahram Online.

Rehan explained that a representative of Egypt's Transportation Ministry told the meeting that the port broke the law by allowing in a yacht carrying more than 12 people.

"The sit-in by workers of tourism companies will continue at the port until its reopening," Rehan added

On 22 June 22, about 40 Jordanian tourists staged a sit-in at Taba Heights after they were prevented from entering the port on their way home to Jordan.

After 5 days, the tourists’ sit-in was joined by 80 Egyptians working in Jordanian tourism in the cities of Aqaba and Amman. These workers then staged a demonstration in front of the Egyptian consulate in Aqaba.

Taba Heights is in close proximity to three countries: Israel by land, and Saudi Arabia and Jordan by sea. Granted an International Tourist Marina license in July 2005, the Taba Heights Marina is the first legitimate port of entry in the region.

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