Friday 16 November 2018

Regime loyalists hail reopening of Syria’s borders as ‘fruits of victory’

Syria’s President Bashar Assad has made gains in the civil war that has ravaged the country.

An UN vehicle enters the Quneitra border crossing between Syria and Israel, in the Golan Heights (AP)
An UN vehicle enters the Quneitra border crossing between Syria and Israel, in the Golan Heights (AP)

By Albert Aji and Omar Akour, Associated Press

President Bashar Assad’s government has received a major boost as Syria’s commercial gateway with Jordan and a crossing with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights manned by UN peacekeepers were reopened years after the war disrupted their operations.

The simultaneous reopening of the crossings was celebrated on state media with back-to-back coverage, reinforcing the government’s narrative that it is slowly emerging victorious from the seven-year war.

“We are now witnessing the early fruits of victory,” Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moallem said at a press conference in Damascus.

Sitting next to his Iraqi counterpart, who was visiting on Monday, Mr al-Moallem said the two countries are discussing reopening a border crossing.

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The border opening is a victory for Syria’s President Bashar Assad, right (Sana/AP)

“No one should isolate Syria,” Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Iraq’s foreign minister, said, adding that he was advocating for Syria’s return to the Arab League.

Mr Assad’s government has been largely isolated by its Arab neighbours since the civil war broke out in 2011.

The 22-member Arab League froze Syria’s membership shortly after the war began, imposing sanctions the cutting diplomatic ties.

Commercial delegations converged on the Naseeb crossing with Jordan on Monday, and members of the Syrian chamber of commerce went into Jordan to meet with their counterparts.

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UN vehicles, soldiers and officials gather at the Quneitra border crossing (AP)

The first lorry carrying citrus fruits entered Jordan, and dozens of private cars drove into Syria.

“We are brothers. Our economy is connected to the Syrian economy,” said Abdel-Salam Theyabat, the head of a Jordanian chamber of commerce.

At the Quneitra border crossing, leaders of the Druze community, which straddles the frontier, were first on the scene to attend the flag-raising ceremony.

A plaque announcing the re-activation of the crossing was signed off with Mercy To The Martyrs and To Syria Victory And Peace.

Humanitarian and community leaders said they hoped the crossing would soon be open to trade and movement of students.

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A national flag is seen on the Syrian side of Quneitra crossing (Ariel Schalit/AP)

The Druze community was divided when Israel occupied the Golan Heights in 1967.

UN observers had monitored the frontier since the 1974 ceasefire deal, but left their posts in 2014 as fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces approached.

Syrian forces recaptured the Quneitra area in July.

Russian military police deployed in the area, including on the edge of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, setting up checkpoints in the area.

Press Association

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