JABER PASSAGE: Jordan fully reopened its main border crossing with Syria on Wednesday to boost its struggling economies following a push by Arab states to re-enter a country they avoided during its decade-long civil war .
Syria, which blames Western sanctions for its economic woes, hopes that broader trade ties with its neighbor to the south will help it recover from a devastating war and attract much-needed foreign exchange.
“The aim of these agreements is to stimulate trade between the two countries to achieve the interests of each party,” Jordanian Minister of Industry and Commerce Maha Al Ali told Al Mamlaka state television.
Officials in Jordan, a close ally of the United States, and Lebanon have urged Washington to relax sanctions against Syria to facilitate trade.
Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt – another close ally of the United States – this month reached an agreement to send Egyptian natural gas to Lebanon via Syria using a gas pipeline built twenty years ago as part of an Arab cooperation project.
Arab states severed ties with Syria during its civil war, which the United Nations says left at least 350,209 dead.
Arab states allied with the United States, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have supported opposition groups fighting President Bashar Assad for years, but Damascus has managed to crush the rebels with the support military of Russia and Iran.
Although Jaber Passage has been partially open since 2018 after the Syrian government ousted rebels from the south, trade has yet to regain its pre-war level of $ 1 billion.
Jordanian officials said a visiting Syrian trade delegation, led by the ministers of economy, trade, agriculture, water and electricity, would discuss the lifting of tariff barriers.
Before the conflict in Syria, the Nasib-Jaber Passage was a transit route for hundreds of trucks a day carrying goods between Europe and Turkey and the Gulf.
Jordanian businessmen had largely avoided dealing with Syria after the 2019 Caesar law – the toughest US sanctions to date that barred foreign companies from doing business with Damascus.
Amman hopes that cross-border trade and the renewal of transport links will help boost its debt-ridden economy, which was hit hard last year by the coronavirus pandemic.
Jordanian businessmen have pressured the government to ask Washington to ease restrictions on imports from Syria, where traders have long had close partnerships.
Syria’s only normally functioning border crossing has been with Lebanon and, in recent years, Iraq after the Qaim crossing reopened in 2019.
Assad has reclaimed most of Syria, but important areas remain beyond his control. Turkish forces are deployed across much of the north and northwest – the last rebel stronghold – and US forces are stationed in the Kurdish-controlled east and northeast.