Jordan Says Not Yet Ready to Open Border Crossing with Syria

Jordan will reopen its border with Syria only when it is ready, Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on Thursday, in a signal that Amman could delay a decision that would boost President Bashar al Assad, Reuters reports. Damascus said this week the road was ready for use but Safadi said he had received no request to reopen it.

“We will deal with the request with all positiveness that serves our interests,” he told a news conference with visiting French Foreign Minster Jean-Yves Le Drian. “Matters have to stabilize. Jordan in principle wants open borders with all its neighbors.. But when and how (Nassib opening) this will depend on when we ensure our interests and our security,” he said.

Billions of dollars in annual trade moved through the Nassib crossing before fighting erupted in 2011, and its closure has weighed on the economy of Syria and neighbouring states, Hammoud added. In 2015, Jordan closed the Jaber border crossing with Syria for security reasons, while Ramtha, the other border crossing with the war-torn country, has been closed for more than five years.

Meeting with industrialists during the week, Prime Minister Omar Razzaz noted that after restoring security in Syria and Iraq, the border crossings with the two neighbours would be reopened and the three countries will work on enhancing economic cooperation, Al Bawaba adds. Local news reports have said that maintenance work at Jaber was under way in anticipation of the reopening.

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Syrian Transport Minister Ali Hammoud said the Syrian government had yet to receive any request from Jordan to reopen the crossing.

“The road is ready to function, and accordingly we are studying the reopening of the crossing,” he said.

The Syrian government has recovered control of most of the country with help from its allies Russia and Iran. Sputnik quoted the Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff, Colonel General Sergei Rudskoy during a briefing in Moscow on Thursdayas saying Damascus has completely restored control over the Syrian-Jordanian border, .

“Control over the Syrian-Jordanian border has been completely regained and conditions were created for resuming the activities of UN peacekeepers,” Rudskoy said.

He noted that international observers’ had stopped their work in the area in 2012 for security reasons.

“Today, UN peacekeepers accompanied by Russian military police patrolled the area for the first time over the past six years,” the Colonel added.

This year, government forces have defeated insurgents in the last remaining enclaves near the cities of Homs and Damascus, and swept through the rebel-held southwest with Russian help, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, The Jerusalem Post reported that the Jordanian army said on Thursday it killed several Islamic State militants who approached its border as they fled a Syrian offensive that drove them out of their enclave in the southwest of the war-torn country. Army units had used “all types of weapons” to shell a group of militants who had come close to its side of the Yarmouk Valley in clashes that lasted nearly twenty-fours from Tuesday to Wednesday afternoon, an army source said.

“We applied rules of engagement and members of the Daesh (Islamic State) gang were forced to retreat inside Syria and some of their members were killed,” an army source told state news agency Petra.

Jordan, alongside other Western and Arab backers, had supplied former Free Syrian Army (FSA)rebels with weapons and logistical support to defeat the militants until the rebels themselves were defeated by the Syrian army last month and lost ground.

A Jordanian army source said the militants who fled from the border were then chased by the Syrian army conducting operations in the area to drive them out of their last hideouts. The militants had sought to take cover among hundreds of civilians camped near the Jordanian border to escape the bombing of their villages during the offensive against the militants, an intelligence source said.

At the same time, Russia has criticized U.S. inaction in facing the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) and other Islamists who now threaten Washington allies Israel and Jordan after being driven out of Syria, Newsweek pointed. Rudskoy addressed the U.S. and Jordan’s unwillingness to intervene in Syria’s southwest, despite being fellow guarantors of a ceasefire established there last year in a deal reached by Moscow, Washington and Amman.

“The Russian Federation regularly reported information about the escalation and dire humanitarian situation in southwestern Syria to the guarantor countries of the southern de-escalation zone—the United States and Jordan. However, no measures were taken to stabilize the situation by foreign partners,” Rudskoy said.

The Israeli Defense Forces announced Thursday that they “tracked 7 armed suspects identified as terrorists most likely affiliated with ISIS. Their movements were tracked in the southern Golan Heights near the area of the triangle of Israel, Jordan, and the DMZ of Syria. An IDF aircraft struck the 7 terrorists.”

With the Syrian government eliminating clearing its southwestern borders of opposition, U.S. allies Israel and Jordan have both expressed a desire to return to a pre-war status quo in regards to Assad, who has criticized both for their stances throughout the conflict. Russia has said the U.S. should coordinate with Damascus, which Washington has accused of war crimes, in resettling the millions of refugees displaced by the seven-year war, or else withdraw its unsanctioned military presence in the country. Rudskoy claimed “there is an increase in groups of ISIS fighters” there and demanded the U.S. “to liquidate the military base at Al-Tanf.”