More talks needed to reopen Syria trade route, says Amman

A man rides on a motorbike at the Syrian-Jordanian border at the Nassib crossing in Syria's Deraa province. (File/ Reuters)
Updated 11 October 2018
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More talks needed to reopen Syria trade route, says Amman

  • The closure of the Nassib crossing in 2015 cut a crucial transit route for hundreds of trucks a day transporting goods between Turkey and the Gulf, and Lebanon and the Gulf
  • Damascus, which retook the crossing from the opposition last July, hopes to reopen the Nassib route

AMMAN: Jordan said on Tuesday more talks with Syria were needed before an important border crossing shut for three years as a result of its neighbor’s war could reopen to serve regional trade.

The closure of the Nassib crossing in 2015 cut a crucial transit route for hundreds of trucks a day transporting goods between Turkey and the Gulf, and Lebanon and the Gulf, in multibillion-dollar annual trade.

Damascus, which retook the crossing from the opposition last July, hopes to reopen the Nassib route because it is vital to its hopes of reviving Syria’s shattered economy and rebuilding in territory under its control.

But Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said technical committees between the two countries which began talks in the middle of September were still working out the practical arrangements.

“The border will open after the technical committees end all the necessary arrangements and measures needed to guarantee opening the borders serves the common interests of the two countries,” Safadi said after talks with his Lebanese counterpart.

Jordan has denied it agreed on a date to reopen the crossing after Damascus announced on Sept. 29 that movement of traffic and goods had begun. Syria retracted that announcement later that day, saying it would reopen on Oct. 10.

Diplomats and officials have privately said the move appeared to signal mounting pressure by Damascus on Amman to speed up the opening of the crossing. Earlier, the Syrian regime had said they had rehabilitated the crossing and it was ready to receive Syrian refugees.

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil in his visit to Amman lobbied Safadi for a speedy reopening, saying it would be a step toward stability in the war-torn country.

“There is big hope that Nassib opens soon so that traffic goes back to its former strength,” Bassil told reporters.

Lebanon’s economy minister told Reuters in July the crossing was “a vital artery” for the Lebanese economy where it is a conduit for millions of dollars of exports of fresh produce to lucrative Gulf markets. 


Erdogan’s ‘vile’ comments on Christchurch mosques shootings dismissed as not representative of Muslims

Updated 21 March 2019
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Erdogan’s ‘vile’ comments on Christchurch mosques shootings dismissed as not representative of Muslims

  • Turkish president has threatened to "send home in coffins" visitors from Australia, New Zealand
  • Aussie and NZ leaders want Turkey to explain the "vile" and "offensive" remarks

JEDDAH: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was condemned on Wednesday for “vile, offensive and reckless” comments after last week’s Christchurch mosque terrorist attacks.

Australia summoned the Turkish ambassador in Canberra to explain the remarks, and New Zealand dispatched its foreign minister to Ankara to “set the record straight, face to face.”

Brenton Tarrant, 28, an Australian white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday after he shot dead 50 people during Friday prayers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Erdogan, in election campaign rallies for his AK Party, urged New Zealand to restore the death penalty and said Turkey would make the killer pay if New Zealand did not.

He said anti-Muslim Australians who came to Turkey would be “sent back in coffins, like their grandfathers at Gallipoli,” and he accused Australian and New Zealand forces of invading Turkey during the First World War “because it is Muslim land.”

But an international affairs scholar in Riyadh said Erdogan’s comments should not be taken as representative of Muslims. 

"He is a propagandist and an unpredictable politician,” Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News. “He keeps saying these things and then he issues an apology. Right now, he is making these incendiary comments to win elections.”

It was inappropriate behavior for a head of state, Al-Shehri said. “Which president would use such language and issue these kind of comments?”

In his speech, Erdogan said that the Gallipoli peninsula campaign in 1915 was in fact an attempt by British colonial forces to relieve their Russian allies. The attack was a military disaster, and more than 11,000 Australian and New Zealand forces were killed. Thousands of people from both countries travel each year to Turkey for war memorial services, and the anniversary is marked on Anzac Day every April 25.

“Remarks have been made by the Turkish President Erdogan that I consider highly offensive to Australians and highly reckless in this very sensitive environment,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said after summoning the Turkish ambassador and dismissing the “excuses” offered.

“I am expecting, and I have asked, for these comments to be clarified, to be withdrawn.” Morrison described claims about Australia and New Zealand’s response to the white supremacist attack as “vile.” He accused Erdogan of betraying the promise of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to forge peace between the two countries.

A memorial at Gallipoli carries Ataturk’s words: “There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets ... after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

“Ataturk sought to transform his country into a modern nation and an embracing nation, and I think these comments are at odds with that spirit,” Morrison said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her deputy, Foreign Minister Winston Peters, would travel to Turkey to seek clarification of Erdogan’s comments. “He is going there to set the record straight, face-to-face,” she said.