Wednesday 21 November 2018

Jordan-Syria crossing to reopen

Countries agree to border move, three years after gateway fell to rebels

Under guard: Syrian soldiers stand at the Nasib border crossing with Jordan in Deraa, Syria. Photo: Reuters
Under guard: Syrian soldiers stand at the Nasib border crossing with Jordan in Deraa, Syria. Photo: Reuters

Albert Aji and Omar Akour

Jordan and Syria agreed yesterday to reopen a vital border crossing between the two countries, three years after the commercial lifeline fell to rebel groups and traffic was halted.

Jordan government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat said the Nasib crossing would be opened today after operational details are agreed upon, according to the Jordanian Petra news agency.

Syria's Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar also confirmed the crossing's reopening, according to Syria's state news agency.

The two governments had earlier issued conflicting reports of when the crossing would open.

The crossing's reopening would bring major relief to President Bashar Assad's government by restoring a much-needed gateway for Syrian exports to Arab countries.

The resumption of commercial trade through the crossing would also be a diplomatic victory for Mr Assad, whose government has been isolated from its Arab neighbours since the war began in 2011.

Arab countries have boycotted the Syrian government since the early days of the war, freezing its membership in the 22-member state Arab League.

"The Nasib crossing is a vital lifeline for trade between the two brotherly countries Jordan and Syria through them to other Arab countries," Ms Ghunaimat said, according to Petra.

Rebels seized the crossing in 2015, disrupting a major trade route between Syria and Jordan, Lebanon and oil-rich Gulf countries.

Syrian troops recaptured it in July this year after rebels reached an agreement with Russian mediators to end the violence in the southern province of Daraa and surrender the crossing.

The crossing is also vital for Syria's neighbouring Lebanon, providing its agricultural products a route to foreign markets. It is the only land route that links Syria's neighbouring Lebanon with foreign markets to export agricultural products.

The Syrian government would also collect transit fees from convoys coming from Jordan.

Separately, the Syrian state terrestrial TV station resumed broadcasting to the eastern city of Deir el-Zour and surrounding areas for the first time in seven years, pro-state TV reported yesterday, the latest in government efforts to restore normal life to areas it has recaptured from armed groups.

Al-Ikhbariya said technicians have installed two transmitters to broadcast state television station and Voice of Youth radio, covering the city of Deir el-Zour and surrounding areas.

Government forces, aided by Russian aircraft and allied militia, chased Isil fighters out of the city and most of the western banks of the Euphrates river last year.

In a separate offensive that occasionally raised tensions, rival US-backed Syrian Defence Forces fought the militants on the eastern banks of the river and along the border with Iraq. The Kurdish-led forces, backed by US-led coalition air power, continue to battle Isil militants in Hajin, a small pocket east of the river.

On Saturday, Isil militants stormed a settlement for displaced people in Hajin and abducted scores of civilians.

The US-led coalition said it couldn't confirm news of the kidnapping.

It said that it has been dropping leaflets requesting that civilians leave the area for months "to avoid the brutal tactics" of the extremist group.

Irish Independent

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