Jordan upgrades diplomatic ties with Syria

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The Jordanian embassy in Damascus. (Petra)
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The UAE embassy in Damascus was reopened last month. (AP)
Updated 23 January 2019

Jordan upgrades diplomatic ties with Syria

  • Some Arab countries have been looking to improve relations with Bashar Al-Assad's regime
  • Jordan recalled its ambassador in 2011 but diplomatic ties were never fully severed

JEDDAH: Jordan has appointed a chargé d'affaires to Syria in an upgrade of diplomatic ties.

An unamed Jordanian diplomat with the ranking of advisor will begin work again at the Jordanian embassy in Damascus, a foreign ministry spokesman said. "The decision is inline with the Jordanian stance since the Syrian revolution erupted in 2011," he said.

The decision is the latest move from Arab countries to improve relations with Bashar Al-Assad's government, which was ostracized by many countries in the region when the Syrian war started in 2011.

Last month, the UAE reaopened its embassy in Damascus after seven years and there has been speculation that Syria will be allowed back into the Arab league after it was kicked out in 2011. Bahrain  also plans to reopen its embassy in the Syrian capital.

Sudan president, Omar Al-Bashir, became the first Arab leader to visit Damascus when he traveled there in December.

Jordan recalled its ambassador in 2011 but diplomatic ties were never fully severed, despite Amman's support for some rebel groups fighting Assad's forces.

In recent months there have been signs of an improvement in relations. In October, Jordan reopened a border crossing with Syria that had been closed for three years. The route once carried billions of dollars of trade each year. 

In November, a delegation of Jordanian MPs traveled to Damascus and met Assad in a visit to discuss ways to improve relations.

Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

Updated 12 min 5 sec ago

Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

  • Hazza Al-Mansoori 'living a dream' as he and backup astronaut train for space mission in September
  • Soyuz-MS 15 launch could be the beginning of a bold new era of Arab exploration of space

DUBAI: More than 30 years after an Arab first journeyed into space, an  Emirati is preparing to become the latest Arab space traveler when he joins a team of astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) in September.

For months, Hazza Al-Mansoori and backup pilot Sultan Al-Neyadi have been undergoing intensive training in Russia, Germany and the US to prepare for the mission. The first Emirati to travel into space will make the historic journey on board a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft due to take off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 25.

During the eight-day mission, he will conduct a tour of the ISS for Arabic viewers on Earth and carry out 15 experiments for the Science in Space schools competition conducted by Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center.

The crew, who will include an American and a Russian, are allowed to take up to 1 kg of personal items with them on the mission.

“I will take my family photo and share the experience of being in space with them,” Al-Mansoori said. There will also be an image of Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s founding father, meeting American astronauts in 1976.

“I am also going to take an Emirati flag. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.”

‘I will take an Emirati flag into space. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.’

Emirati astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori

Al-Mansoori will join an elite space club comprising Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan bin Salman and Syria’s Muhammed Faris. Prince Sultan became the first Arab to travel to space as part of space shuttle Discovery’s crew in 1985. Faris was a crew member of USSR’s Soyuz spacecraft in 1987.

The Emirati astronaut is aware that history is resting on his shoulders. Speaking to the media recently during his training program in Houston, Al-Mansoori  said it is a huge personal honor to be the first Emirati chosen for space exploration.

“I’m excited about the whole mission, but especially to experience the microgravity and be living in the ISS, and conducting daily experiments and working with the amazing group on board,” he said.

Al-Mansoori and Al-Neyadi have been undergoing rigorous training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The program includes familiarization with NASA equipment on board the space station, and handling emergency situations, such as ammonia gas leaks and depressurization.

The Emiratis have been trained to fend for themselves if the return goes off course and they land in the wilderness of Russia.

Speaking of the Soyuz-MS 15 mission, Yousuf Al-Shaibani, director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, said: “We strive to see the UAE Astronaut Program achieve its objective of preparing generations of Emiratis who will contribute to enhancing the country’s position in space science and research to serve the ambitious aspirations aimed at building a national knowledge-based economy.”

The September launch could prove to be the beginning of a bold new era for Arabs and space. Al-Neyadi, the backup pilot, has been promised a seat on a future mission, and the UAE and Saudi Arabia are drawing up ambitious plans for the development of the region’s space industry.