Jordan reopens trade gateway with Syria after month-long COVID closure

A vehicle arrives at the Jaber border crossing between Jordan and Syria (Nassib crossing on the Syrian side). Jordan reopened its trade gateway with Syria after month-long COVID closure. (File/AFP)
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Updated 27 September 2020

Jordan reopens trade gateway with Syria after month-long COVID closure

  • Authorities imposed back-to-back handling of goods
  • The closure hit trade that had already shrunk because of the impact of COVID-19

AMMAN: Jordan on Sunday resumed its land border traffic with Syria, following a more than month-long closure, after applying new rules to prevent truck drivers spreading the novel coronavirus into the kingdom, officials and businessmen said.
They said authorities imposed back-to-back handling of goods to ensure Syrian, Lebanese truck drivers and others entering the kingdom maintain a social distance from Jordanian customs officials.
Officials said in mid-August they had to close the crossing, the main gateway for goods from Lebanon and Syria to the Gulf, after dozens of infections among border officials linked to a spike in cases in neighboring Syria.
Before the decade-old conflict in Syria, the Nasib-Jaber crossing was also a transit route for hundreds of trucks a day transporting goods between Europe and Turkey and the Gulf in a multi-billion dollar annual trade.
The closure hit trade that had already shrunk because of the impact of COVID-19 and the Caesar Act — the toughest US sanctions yet that came into force in June and prohibited foreign companies trading with Damascus.
“We have had millions of dollars of losses as a result of the closure,” said Mohammad al Daoud, the president of the Jordanian Truck Owners’ Association that represents over 17,000 trucks.
The country’s other land crossings with Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Palestinian territories have been only open for commercial goods since a lockdown in March to stem the pandemic.
Syrian authorities said 70 trailers carrying, mostly fresh produce, entered Jordan on Sunday, including transit cargo heading to Gulf markets and Iraq.
While the crossing was closed, Syria’s only normally operating frontier crossing had been with Lebanon, which itself has no other functioning land borders.
Lebanon was also hit hard by the closure. It relies on the crossing for overland connections to all other countries because its only other frontier is with Israel, with which it has no ties.
“This crossing is an economic lifeline for all our land exports,” said Ibrahim al Tarshishi, the head of the Lebanese farmers’ association. (Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; editing by Barbara Lewis)


Saad Hariri named new Lebanon PM, promises reform cabinet

Updated 41 min 17 sec ago

Saad Hariri named new Lebanon PM, promises reform cabinet

  • Hariri immediately promised a government of technocrats committed to a French-backed reform plan
  • He has previously led three governments in Lebanon

BEIRUT: Three-time Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri was named to the post for a fourth time Thursday and immediately promised a government of technocrats committed to a French-backed reform plan.
Hariri said he would “form a cabinet of non politically aligned experts with the mission of economic, financial and administrative reforms contained in the French initiative roadmap.”
“I will work on forming a government quickly because time is running out and this is the only and last chance facing our country,” he added.
President Michel Aoun named Hariri to form a new cabinet to lift the country out of crisis after most parliamentary blocs backed his nomination.
Hariri, who has previously led three governments in Lebanon, stepped down almost a year ago under pressure from unprecedented protests against the political class.
“The president summoned... Saad Al-Deen Al-Hariri to task him with forming a government,” a spokesman for the presidency said.
Hariri was backed by a majority of 65 lawmakers, while 53 abstained.
Lebanon is grappling with its worst economic crisis in decades and still reeling from a devastating port blast that killed more than 200 people and ravaged large parts of Beirut in August.
Aoun warned Wednesday that the new prime minister, the third in a year, would have to spearhead reforms and battle corruption.
A relatively unknown diplomat, Mustapha Adib, had been nominated in late August following the resignation of his predecessor Hassan Diab’s government in the aftermath of the deadly port blast.
Adib had vowed to form a cabinet of experts, in line with conditions set by French President Emmanuel Macron to help rescue the corruption-ridden country from its worst ever economic crisis.
He faced resistance from some of the main parties however and threw in the towel nearly a month later, leaving Lebanon rudderless to face soaring poverty and the aftermath of its worst peacetime disaster.