Jordan fully reopens border crossing with Syria, seeks trade boost

Jaber Crossing, September 30 (BNA) Jordan reopened its main border crossing with Syria on Wednesday in a move to boost the two countries’ faltering economies and boost Arab countries’ efforts to reintegrate Syria after it was ostracized during the civil war.

Syrian trucks waited to enter Jordan from the Jaber border crossing, and taxis carrying passengers lined up to pass through customs and immigration control.

“The security situation is now stable on the Syrian side and we hope it will remain stable,” Reuters quoted Col. Muayyad al-Zoubi, head of the Jaber crossing, as saying.

Jaber crossing reopened in 2018 after the Syrian government expelled rebels from the south, but the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the imposition of measures to curb transmission of the virus.

Syria, which blames Western sanctions for its economic problems, hopes that broader trade ties with its southern neighbor will help it recover from a decade-long war.

Jordanian Minister of Trade and Industry Maha Al-Ali said on the state-owned Al-Mamlaka TV channel that the aim of these understandings is to enhance trade exchange between the two countries to achieve the interests of each party.

Officials in Jordan, a US ally, and Lebanon have urged Washington to ease sanctions on Syria.

“We now feel that there is an American move to give more space to Jordanian businessmen to deal with Syria,” said Jamal Al-Rifai, deputy head of the Jordan Chamber of Commerce.

But the United States, which suspended its diplomatic presence in Syria in 2012, has shown no sign of an imminent change in relations.

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In response to questions about whether the United States encourages or supports rapprochement between Syria and Jordan, a State Department spokesperson said Washington has no plans to “normalize or upgrade” diplomatic relations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has not encouraged others to do so. And therefore.

“Assad has not regained his legitimacy in our eyes, and there is no doubt that the United States is normalizing relations with his government at this time,” the spokesman said.

“The United States will not normalize or advance our diplomatic relations with the Assad regime nor encourage others to do so, given the atrocities committed by the Assad regime against the Syrian people.”

The spokesman said the US sanctions under the 2019 Caesar Act, the most severe US sanctions to date that have prevented foreign companies from trading with Damascus, were an important tool to press for accountability. But the spokesman added that Washington also wanted to make sure that any US sanctions did not impede humanitarian activity.

Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt this month reached an agreement to send Egyptian natural gas to Lebanon via Syria using a pipeline built nearly 20 years ago in an Arab cooperation project.

Arab countries cut ties with Syria during a civil war that the United Nations says has killed at least 350,000 people.

The United Arab Emirates and Syria restored diplomatic relations in 2018.

On Friday, the Egyptian and Syrian foreign ministers met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, in what Egyptian media described as the first meeting at this level in nearly ten years.

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Assad has regained most of Syria, but large areas remain outside his control. Turkish forces are deployed in most areas of the north and northwest, the last stronghold of the opposition, and American forces are stationed in the east and northeast under Kurdish control.

Jordan and Syria hope that mutual trade will return to the level of one billion dollars before the war.

Jordanian officials said that a visiting trade delegation from Syria led by the ministers of economy, trade, agriculture, water and electricity will discuss lifting customs barriers.

Jordanian businessmen have largely avoided doing business with Syria after the US Caesar Act of 2019 imposed tough sanctions that prevented foreign companies from trading with Damascus.

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