AMMAN: Jordanians have shifted from demanding that their government opens the border for their neighbors fleeing the violence in southern Syria to collecting food and essential items to send to them where they are.
Abu Ayham, a government employee, told Arab News that he was energized to help collect food parcels and water for Syrian refugees when he discovered that a local charity had access. “When I found out that this charity had a permit to transport humanitarian aid to south Syria, I called friends and neighbors and we initiated a collection mostly made of canned food and bottled water,” he said.
Thousands of Jordanians have begun similar ad hoc efforts to help those in need. Jordan’s Prime Minister Omar Razzaz also chimed in and called for support for the humanitarian effort.
“We call for a national campaign of humanitarian support to our brothers inside Syria to help alleviate their suffering. This will be done via the Jordanian Hashemite Fund to ensure that the needed supplies reach our Syrian brethren as soon as possible,” he wrote on Twitter.
Razzaz followed his tweet with a surprise visit on Sunday to the northern town of Ramtha, close to the Syrian border.
Jordan’s military had, by Monday afternoon, delivered a total of 26 truck-loads of humanitarian supplies.
Ayman Mefleh, the director of the Jordanian Hashemite Fund, said the organization was contacted by the government to arrange and centralize the aid efforts. “Jordanians of all walks of life decided to help and we used all our resources and experience to gather and funnel this help to the needy in south Syria,” he said.
Mefleh told Arab News that shipments of food, water, blankets and tents were transported across the border with the help of the Arab Jordanian Armed Forces. “This is a purely Jordanian national effort without anyone else’s help,” he said.
While humanitarian support was being sent to the needy in Syria, Jordanian officials were busy trying to intercede with Russia to reduce the violence and ensure the de-escalation agreement reached in Amman between officials from the US, Russian and Jordan last year is honored.
Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi is heading to Russia on Tuesday with the hope of obtaining Moscow’s support for a reduction in violence and for working out local agreements with an eye on preserving Jordan’s interests.
Arab News has learned that Jordanian military and political officials took part in a top-level secret meeting with leaders of the Syrian opposition in Amman on Monday, in order to coordinate the message that Safadi will carry with him to Moscow.
Musa Shteiwi, of Jordan University’s Center for Strategic Studies, told Arab News he has a strong feeling that the efforts of Jordanian officials will succeed in reducing tensions. “While Jordan will not intercede for Al-Nusra or Khaled ibn Al-Walid militias, our officials are working to reach understandings for the supporters of the Free Syrian Army and other groups,” he said.
Shteiwi believes that Jordan has three main interests in its negotiations with the Russians. “We want to ensure that there is no military spillover into Jordanian territory, that pro-Iranian and Hezbollah troops are not allowed in the areas near Jordan’s borders, and that the Syria-Jordan crossing points will eventually be opened to allow for a return to the previous status.”