Jordanian and Syrian foreign ministers meet at UN
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi met with his Syrian counterpart Faisal Mekdad during the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, the latest in a series of high-profile meetings between the two countries.
According to the Syrian regime’s news agency SANA, the two discussed ways to increase “cooperation” and to “ensure the security of the common borders.”
The agency also said the two officials also “reviewed efforts to solving the crisis in Syria and addressing its humanitarian consequences,” in addition to discussing the project to supply Lebanon with Jordanian electricity and Egyptian natural gas through Syria.
The New Arab asked the Jordanian Foreign Ministry for additional details on the meeting, but did not receive an answer by the time of publishing.
The meeting comes just days after Syria’s Minister of Defence visited Jordan—the highest level Syrian official to visit the Hashemite Kingdom since the Syrian revolution started in 2011. Similarly, Syria’s defence minister and his Jordanian counterpart discussed border security, as well as preventing drug trafficking.
Though no official policy change has been announced, Amman has been taking steps towards Damascus in recent months. In a July interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Jordan’s King Abdullah II said that Bashar al-Assad has “longevity,” and that regional powers should come together to “talk with the regime.”
Since that interview, Jordan has re-opened the Naseeb-Jaber commercial crossing with Syria, and held discussions between their respective Ministers of Interior. Jordan will also cooperate with Syria to provide Lebanon with electricity and Egyptian natural gas—the latter of which will transit through Jordan before entering Syria and eventually go to Lebanon.
One of Jordan’s top strategic priorities in Syria is ensuring that the country’s northern border stays secure, and that Iranian-backed elements maintain a certain distance from the border.
Syria is a major producer of narcotics and Jordan is a major transit point for these drugs on the way to the GCC - the region’s largest consumer of drugs. Jordan regularly intercepts shipments of drugs coming from Syria, which Iranian-backed militias are suspected to be involved in.
On Tuesday, Jordanian officials seized two million tons of Captagon pills being smuggled into Jordan via the Nasseb-Jaber border crossing.
The past three months have seen open fighting between opposition elements and regime soldiers in Daraa governorate, near Jordan’s northern border, a cause for concern for Jordan. In an interview on Wednesday, FM Safadi pointed to Russian mediation as a helpful force in Daraa, saying the country had “an important role in stabilising the south of [Syria]”.
Jordan hosts between 600,000 and 1.3 million Syrian refugees, according to UNHCR and the Jordanian government, respectively. In his CNN interview, King Abdullah said that these refugees are likely to stay in Jordan for the long term.