SyriaMiddle East

Jordan reopens main border, to resume Syria flights for first time in decade

Jordan has fully reopened its main border crossing with Syria, in a step to restore extensive business ties with Damascus.

The Nasib-Jaber crossing was a transit route for hundreds of trucks a day before the Syria conflict started in 2011.

Jordan’s flag carrier, Royal Jordanian Airlines, also said it will resume direct flights to Damascus for the first time in nearly a decade, in the latest sign of thawing relations between the two neighbors.

The decision was announced at the end of a two-day ministerial meeting held in Amman, in which the two sides discussed strengthening cooperation on trade, transport, energy and agriculture, according to Jordan’s official Petra news agency.

Royal Jordanian Airlines will resume direct flights to Damascus from October 3, an official statement broadcast on state-owned Mamlaka television network said.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki initially welcomed the news, but later said Washington was reviewing the resumption of direct flights between Amman and Damascus.

Syria is the target of US sanctions under the so-called Caesar Act, that have further crippled the war-torn country’s economy by prohibiting foreign companies trading with Damascus.

Jordan’s national airline halted its flights to Damascus and the strategic northwestern city of Aleppo in 2012 at the height of the war on Syria. Other airlines, though, continued to fly to Amman from the Syrian capital.

Jordanian government and industry officials said on Monday that the country will fully reopen its main border crossing with Syria from Wednesday to help ease the flow of goods hit by the coronavirus pandemic and a decade of conflict.

Before the conflict in Syria, the Nasib-Jaber crossing was a transit route for hundreds of trucks a day, transporting billions of dollars worth of goods between Europe and Turkey and the Persian Gulf region.

Although the Jaber crossing has been open since 2018 after government troops drove foreign-backed militants from southern Syria, trade with Jordan has yet to recover to $1 billion before the war. 

“This is an important step to ease the flow of goods between the two countries and Lebanon and the Persian Gulf,” Daif Allah Abu Akula, chairman of Jordan’s customs clearance companies association, said.

Last week, Syrian Defense Minister General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub made a rare trip to Amman to discuss stability on their mutual border as well as the situation in Syria’s southwestern city of Dara’a with Jordanian army head Lieutenant General Yousef Hunaiti.

Jordan had for years supported foreign-sponsored Takfiri terrorist groups, which controlled southern Syria, until Syrian government troops and allied forces recaptured Dara’a from militants more than three years ago.

Foreign intervention 

Meanwhile, Syria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Bassam Sabbagh said certain states are desperately attempting to create obstacles and undermine the political process in his country.

Addressing a UN Security Council session on Tuesday, Sabbagh said Damascus rejects any foreign intervention in the work of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, as the constitutional body is an entirely Syrian affair and should be decided by the Syrian people alone.

He added that the Syrian government has fully cooperated with the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen, stressing that Syrian officials held constructive talks with him during his stay in Damascus on September 11 and 12.

“We listened to his briefing today, and welcome his decision to hold the sixth session of the Syrian Constitutional Committee next month. The UN special envoy must maintain his role as a facilitator and present developments on the ground in a fair and objective manner,” Sabbagh pointed out.

The Syrian diplomat said recent developments in Dara’a and related reconciliation agreements demonstrate the Damascus government’s eagerness to restore security and stability across Syria and ensure the safety of ordinary people.

The Syria conflict, he said, was provoked by certain countries, adding the crisis has claimed many civilian lives and gravely damaged prestigious developments that the Arab country had made over the past decades.

Sabbagh also underlined the need for an end to the illegitimate presence of US and Turkish military forces on Syrian soil, calling for the removal of sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union on Syria, and support for the Syrian government’s campaign against terrorism.

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