Over the past year, trade in goods between Syria and Jordan has been severely affected by the pandemic and the long-standing conflict. Jordanian government officials confirmed that the border crossing would reopen, Reuters reported on Monday this week. Throughout the pandemic, Jordan has taken steps to curb the transmission of the virus, including closing the border between the two countries. On the Jordanian side, the gate is known as Jaber’s Passage, but on the Syrian side, it is known as Nassib, by Middle East Online (MEO).
During the conflict with Syrian rebel groups, the gates were overrun by rebels in 2015, disrupting the Great Trade Route (MEO). Although the passage has been open periodically since 2018, trade profits have yet to return to their pre-war level of $ 1 billion (Reuters). Pandemic-related restrictions such as blocking international travel will be lifted on Wednesday according to Jordanian officials. A Syrian trade delegation will travel to Jordan to discuss lifting barriers on “the economy, agriculture, water and electricity” later this week (Reuters).
Mazen Faraya, Jordan’s interior minister, said after intense pressure from Damascus, restrictions on Syrian freight in transit to Gulf markets and Iraq via Jordan will also be lifted (Reuters). “We hope that these measures will restore pre-conflict trade relations and revive the lucrative transit trade,” deputy director of the Jordanian chamber of commerce, Jamal al Rifae, told Reuters. In addition to goods in transit from the Gulf, unrestricted passenger traffic will be permitted from Jordan to Syria through Faraya. After the Caesar 2019 law, the most severe U.S. sanctions to date that barred foreign companies from doing business with Damascus, Jordanian businessmen had mostly avoided dealing with Syria (Reuters). This law coupled with the pandemic has since caused an economic plateau in Jordan. Many businessmen in Jordan have pressured the government to pressure Washington to relax restrictions on crucial Syrian imports.
According to Yahoo Finance, in addition to the commercial opening of the Jaber-Nassib crossing, the Jordanian public carrier, Royal Jordanian, will soon resume its flights to Damascus. Royal Jordanian flights have not landed directly in Damascus in the past 10 years. The airline has also scheduled a shuttle service for passengers wishing to travel to Damascus by land which will operate until final approvals are given for the flights (Yahoo Finance). The decision to resume flights was taken during a two-day meeting between officials in Amman to boost trade and investment. Daif Allah Abu Akula, president of the Jordanian Association of Customs Clearance Companies, said: “This is an important step to facilitate the movement of goods between the two countries and Lebanon and the Gulf” (Yahoo Finance) .
With Jordan being a powerful ally of the United States, communications with Washington have been frequent and many have pushed to ease restrictions on trade relations with Syria in hopes of reviving deals with the main trading neighbor. Jordanian officials are also hoping that Washington will allow Syria to benefit from a plan to supply Egyptian gas to the Lebanese via an Arab gas pipeline crossing the territory (Yahoo Finance).
It should be in the best interest of the United States to support Jordan’s economic growth and its attempts to increase bilateral trade with Syria, given that Jordan and the United States are allied nations. Since trade for Jordan has yet to return to pre-war levels, the hope is to see a significant increase in trade via the Jaber-Nassib Passage and the Jordanian royal flights returning to Damascus. Tensions remain high between Syria and the United States over the 2019 Caesar law which heavily sanctioned trade. Going forward, as the United States continues to try to boost its economy through sanctions, the impact on its ally’s trade should also be considered.