Jordan not yet ready to open border crossing with Syria

Damascus said this week the road was ready for use but , Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said he had received no request to reopen it. (Reuters)
Updated 03 August 2018
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Jordan not yet ready to open border crossing with Syria

AMMAN: 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.
Billions of dollars in annual trade with Europe and the Gulf moved through the Syrian-Jordanian Nassib crossing until fighting erupted in 2011. It was captured by rebels in 2015 and its closure hurt the economy of Syria and neighboring states.
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 Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. “Matters have to stabilize,” he said.
Safadi said he discussed reopening the crossing with Moscow. The crossing’s recapture by Syrian forces was a central goal of a campaign launched last June by the government and Russian forces to regain control of rebel-held parts of the southwest.
Russia is a crucial backer of Assad and Russian bombing was central to a campaign by Assad that forced the mainstream Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels once backed by Jordan and Assad’s Western and Arab foes to surrender.
“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 added.
Jordan is a US ally but Moscow wanted Amman to persuade rebels before it was retaken by government forces last month to cede control of the crossing to consolidate an accord between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin last year to set up a de-escalation zone.
Washington’s decision not to intervene during the southwest campaign wrecked the accord and gave the Russians the greenlight to crush rebels in the southwest, diplomats say.
They say Amman now wants Russian guarantees to help restore stability in the sensitive southern border area where officials say a spillover of violence and radicalism poses a threat.
Before reopening the crossing, it also wants Russian military police to play a bigger role in protecting displaced civilians who want to return to areas recently won back by Syria’s army and to repel a threat from Iranian militias.
“For Russia and the regime opening the crossing will deliver a big psychological boost. They want to show everything is now quickly being normalized and the war is nearing its end,” said another diplomatic source familiar with the discussions.
Syria’s army has recovered control of most of the country, helped by Iranian-backed militias and Russian aerial bombs.
This year, they defeated insurgents in the last remaining enclaves near the cities of Homs and Damascus, swept through the southwest and regained the border with Israel and Jordan.


US-backed SDF hand Iraqi, foreign Daesh fighters to Iraq

Updated 34 min 49 sec ago
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US-backed SDF hand Iraqi, foreign Daesh fighters to Iraq

  • The handover was the first of several under an agreement brokered to handover a total of 502 fighters
  • News of the handover came as US-backed forces were readying for an assault on the militant group’s final enclave in eastern Syria

BAGHDAD: US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) handed over more than 150 Iraqi and other foreign Daesh fighters to Iraq on Thursday.
The handover was the first of several, two Iraqi military sources told Reuters, under an agreement brokered to handover a total of 502 fighters.
“The majority of the fighters are Iraqi,” said a military colonel whose unit is stationed at the Syrian border. “But we have a few foreigners.”
The mayor of Iraqi border town Al-Qaim, Ahmed Al-Mahallawi, said some fighters’ families were also transferred.
“Early this morning, 10 trucks loaded with Daesh fighters and their families were handed over by SDF forces to the Iraqi army,” he said.
“The majority of them are Iraqis and the convoy was under maximum security protection headed to the Jazeera and Badiya military headquarters.” Both bases are located in Anbar province.
The SDF and the US-backed coalition could not immediately be reached for comment.
News of the handover came as US-backed forces were readying for an assault on the militant group’s final enclave in eastern Syria. The last civilians are expected to be evacuated on Thursday, to clear the way for the assault, the SDF said.
Around 800 of foreign extremist fighters who joined Daesh, including many Iraqis, are being held in Syria by the SDF, the group said. More than 2,000 family members are also in camps, with dozens more arriving each day.
Their fate has become more pressing in recent days as US-backed fighters planned their assault to capture the last remnants of the group’s self-styled caliphate.
On Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said Iraq was carefully monitoring the situation at its Syrian border amid concerns that the remaining Daesh fighters could stream across the border.
The militant group still poses a threat in Iraq and some western officials believe that the group’s leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, may still be hiding there.