Jordan seeks more coordination with Russia to bring 'stability' to southern Syria

Jordan seeks more coordination with Russia to bring 'stability' to southern Syria
During a visit by his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al Safadi warned of the dangers of drug smuggling and Iranian militia activities in southern Syria.
2 min read
03 November, 2022
Sergei Lavrov met his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Al Safadi in Amman [Getty]

Jordan and Russia have agreed to step up coordination in tackling instability in southern Syria, which Amman blames on Iran-linked militias and multi-billion dollar drug smuggling across its border, Jordan's foreign minister said on Thursday.

Ayman al Safadi was speaking after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that centered on south Syria to "neutralise the potential dangers of instability" in the area.

"There is a need for coordination and this is the focus of expansive discussions. The danger of drug smuggling to Jordan and across its territory by hostile militias," Safadi told a news conference.

Russia whose military intervention helped Syrian President Bashar al Assad gain control most of the country from opposition forces during a brutal civil war backed a political solution to end the conflict, Lavrov said.

The growing influence of Iranian-backed militias including Lebanon's Hezbollah group in southern Syria in recent years has already alarmed both Jordan and Israel.

King Abdullah has expressed fears that the Russian war with Ukraine could eventually help Iran fill in the void left by a weaker Russian military presence in Syria, and Amman looks to Moscow to reaffirm its commitment to the region.

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Regional intelligence sources say Moscow has in recent months stepped up military police patrols along the Syrian side of the border in a move to assure Jordan it will not allow Teheran-backed militias to hold sway along the border area.

The sharp rise in smuggling attempts had forced Jordan earlier this year to change army rules of engagement along the border, giving its military the authority to use overwhelming force.

"With the continued situation in the south (Syria), the kingdom will do what is needed to preserve its national security," Safadi said.

War-torn Syria has become the region's main production site for a multi-billion-dollar drug trade, with Jordan a main transit route to the oil-rich Gulf states for Syrian-made captagon amphetamines, Western anti-narcotics officials and Washington say.

Jordanian officials say they have raised their concerns with the Syrian regime but have not seen any real attempt to clamp-down on the illicit trade.

The Assad regime says it is doing its best to curb smuggling and continues to bust major smuggler rings in the south and denies complicity by militias tied to its security forces.

(Reuters and The New Arab Staff)