Arab News Headlines

Syria, Jordan Reopen Border Crossing Amid Push to Normalize Ties

CAIRO — Jordan reopened its main border crossing with Syria on Wednesday, amid an apparent regional push to reintegrate Damascus into regional political and economic structures.

Jordan and Syria officially reopened the main Jaber-Nassib border crossing between the two countries Wednesday after an apparent U.S. green light to jump-start regional trade and economic dealings. Egypt recently agreed to sell gas to Lebanon via both Jordan and Syria.

Qatar’s Al-Jazeera TV reported that a decision to resume flights between the Jordanian capital, Amman, and the Syrian capital, Damascus, was canceled due to opposition from Washington.

Both the Syrian and Jordanian military chiefs met recently in Damascus to work out the final details of the reopening of the key border link between the two countries.

Jordan has reportedly lost around $20 billion in trade over the last 10 years due to closures of its border with Syria and the disruption of regional trade routes between Turkey and Lebanon to the Gulf states via Syria and Jordan.

Colonel Ahmed Qara’an, a top Jordanian customs official at the Jaber-Nassib border crossing, told Arab media that “traffic between Syria and Jordan has been on the medium side,” but that he “expects trade traffic to pick up in the coming days.”

Egyptian political sociologist Said Sadek told VOA that the decision to reopen the border crossing between Jordan and Syria is a “pragmatic” move that follows the realization that the Syrian opposition “is not going to win the conflict against the government in Damascus,” and ties between Damascus and its Arab neighbors need to resume.

“Now, there is realization that (Syrian President Bashar) al Assad and (his Russian backers) have won, the opposition has been defeated and America is withdrawing from the area,” he said. “There was also this plan to send gas from Egypt to Jordan to Syria (and on) to Lebanon.”

Sadek added that a number of Arab foreign ministers, including those of Egypt and Jordan, met with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad on the sidelines of the just-ended U.N. General Assembly annual session, indicating that “there is something in the air,” regarding normalizing ties with Syria. He thinks that “will benefit the Syrian economy, people and the entire region, reducing tensions.”

Paul Sullivan, a Washington-based Middle East analyst, told VOA that the border between Syria and Jordan has a “difficult history,” in addition to “present-day tensions.”

He thinks it will not be easy to “normalize relations with the Assad regime on part of the border,” while still having to deal with a myriad of dissenting groups within Syria and outside of Syria.”

Sullivan suggested that the border may “again be closed” at some point in the future due to tensions over a variety of issues, and he thinks Jordan would be wise to “beef up security along the border.”

Source: Voice of America