Jordan re-closes crossing with Syria after security situation escalation on Syrian side

This photo taken in 2015 shows the Jaber border crossing with Syria, some 90 kilometres north of Amman. (AFP/File Photo)
This photo taken in 2015 shows the Jaber border crossing with Syria, some 90 kilometres north of Amman. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 31 July 2021

Jordan re-closes crossing with Syria after security situation escalation on Syrian side

This photo taken in 2015 shows the Jaber border crossing with Syria, some 90 kilometres north of Amman. (AFP/File Photo)
  • The number of arrivals through the border crossing will be increased
  • All nationalities will be allowed to leave Jordan through the crossing

AMMAN: The Jaber border crossing between Jordan and Syria will be temporarily closed for the movement of goods and passengers as a result of the developments in the security situation on the Syrian side, Petra News Agency reported an official source in the Ministry of Interior as saying.

The source added that the crossing will be reopened if the “appropriate conditions” are in place.

The crossing was set to operate at full capacity from Aug. 1, following almost 10 years of complete and partial closure due to rising violence in Syria and the coronavirus pandemic.

Jordanian Interior Minister Mazen Al-Faraya recently announced that the Jaber-Nasib crossing would operate at full capacity after all technical and administrative arrangements were completed with the Syrian side.

Al-Faraya said that the decision came after directives from Prime Minister Bishr Khasawneh following his field visit to the crossing on July 8.

The minister added that a set of new measures will be implemented at the border crossing — located about 90 kilometers north of Amman — to increase passenger and cargo traffic between Jordan and Syria, including the cancellation of the back-to-back shipment protocol.

“This means that the Syrian trucks will continue their way to Saudi Arabia and other the Arab Gulf countries without anymore needing a Jordanian freight forwarder,” he said.

Al-Faraya added that the number of arrivals through the border crossing will be increased and that all nationalities will be allowed to leave Jordan through the border crossing with no prior approval from the interior ministry.

In April 2015, Jordan completely closed its border crossing with Syria as a result of escalating violence in the Syrian bordering town of Nasib, which, at the time, was reportedly captured by the Syrian rebels and fighters from the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front.

With Syrian government forces recapturing the southern regions and raising the country’s red-white-and-black flag above Nasib, Jordan reopened the crossing with Syria in October 2018, but only partially, and for a limited number of passengers and cargo traffic.

Following concerns of the crossing becoming a coronavirus hot spot, Jordanian authorities closed the country’s sole gateway into Syria in August 2020 to reopen it shortly afterward, but also at a limited capacity.

The Nasib crossing is the only functioning crossing between Jordan and Syria and is considered a vital economic artery for Jordanian, Syrian and Lebanese traders and merchants.

Strategic analyst Amer Sabaileh said that Jordan “getting closer” to Syria has to do with Amman’s frustration with the international community’s inaction on Syria and its failure to resolve the ongoing crisis.

“After 10 years of crisis, nobody is offering solutions for the Syrian conflict and this puts more pressure on Jordan to start at least exploring for new opportunities to put an end to this crisis, because it is the most affected by its ongoing consequences, be they economic, security or social,” Sabaileh told Arab News.

Jordan is home to about 650,000 registered Syrian refugees, according to the UNHCR.

Asked whether Jordan’s emerging activism on Syria was approved by the US following King Abdullah’s visit to Washington, Sabaileh said: “These attempt were before his visit to the US, but the activism became more active after he returned home. If there was no green light given from the US, at least there was no rejection.”

Political commentator Shaqfiq Obeidat hailed Jordan’s decision to reopen the border crossing with Syria as “wise and historic,” and reflective of “brotherly ties” between Amman and Damascus.

Obeidat said that the reopening of the Jaber border crossing with Syria is in line with Jordan’s “unaltered position” on Syria which, he said, had always been to promote a comprehensive political solution to the ongoing conflict there.

Describing Syria as “Jordan’s northern gateway” to the world, Obeidat said that the reopening of the border crossing at full capacity will generate “immeasurable” contributions towards enhancing bilateral trade and increasing Jordanian exports to Syria, Lebanon and eastern Europe.


Saudi Arabia, US, EU, others announce $600m in additional aid for Yemen 

Saudi Arabia, US, EU, others announce $600m in additional aid for Yemen 
Updated 14 sec ago

Saudi Arabia, US, EU, others announce $600m in additional aid for Yemen 

Saudi Arabia, US, EU, others announce $600m in additional aid for Yemen 
  • Saudi Arabia remains the top donor of humanitarian aid to its war-torn neighbor
  • Saudi, Yemeni govts call for pressure on Houthis to choose UN-led political solution to conflict

NEW YORK:  Saudi Arabia, the US, the EU and other nations announced hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of additional humanitarian and development aid for Yemen at a high-level meeting at the UN on Wednesday. 

Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Rabeeah, supervisor-general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, announced that Saudi Arabia will provide an additional $90 million in humanitarian aid for war-torn Yemen.

“Over the last six years, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has provided more than $18 billion to support Yemen,” he said. “This year alone, Saudi Arabia has supported Yemen with more than $848 million.” 

The latest pledge means Saudi Arabia is once again the largest donor of aid to Yemen. But “monetary donations alone won’t alleviate the crisis in Yemen,” Al-Rabeeah warned. 

“Unless we work together to end the conflict and minimize the obstructions of aid delivery, the situation will continue to worsen,” he added.

“Ongoing aggression by the Houthi militias against the UN and international NGOs only adds more misery to the Yemeni people.”

Al-Rabeeah expressed the Kingdom’s desire that the international community support its political plan “to put an end to the conflict and bring long-lasting peace to all Yemenis.”

The US promised an additional $290 million in donations for 2021, while the EU announced that it will donate a further €119 million ($139.65 million), which the bloc’s Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen said is a “joint humanitarian and development aid pledge.”

She added that “in the immediate term, our support will help families access food and basic commodities,” and that “in the long term, the EU seeks to help Yemen build a bridge from crisis to recover.” In this, she said, “investing in youth and women will play a critical role.”

Canada, Qatar, Sweden and Brazil together pledged additional donations worth over $120 million, some of which will be provided to UN bodies such as the World Food Programme to assist their operations in Yemen.

In total, around $600 million in additional humanitarian funding was announced at the UN meeting.

That money will be used to ensure that food security, sanitation, healthcare and education continues to be delivered to as many Yemenis as possible.

But while the aid provided by the international community will alleviate some of the hardship facing the country’s 29 million people, world leaders repeatedly made clear that a political solution to the conflict is the only way to truly end the humanitarian crisis.

Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East, and it was plunged into civil war when the Iran-backed Houthis overthrew the UN-recognized government in 2015. Since then, famine and conflict have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians.

Yemen’s Minister of Foreign and Expatriate Affairs Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak warned on Wednesday that “despite the generous contributions of the international community, including the UN-led Humanitarian Response Plan, the humanitarian crisis witnessed by Yemen is still the largest and most urgent in the world.” 

He blamed the Houthis for Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, citing their assault on the city of Marib as an example of how they perpetuate the suffering of Yemenis — in this case by preventing the supply of household fuel to people across the country.

“Marib is the main source of household gas in Yemen … The continued brutal attacks by the Houthi militias on Marib exacerbate human suffering,” Bin Mubarak said.

He warned that a continuation of the Marib offensive could force thousands of internally displaced Yemenis who had sought safety in the city to seek refuge overseas.

“All humanitarian efforts provided by the different (UN) agencies won’t end the suffering of the Yemenis unless this war stops,” he said.

“Therefore, I’d like to call upon the international community to exert more effort on the Houthi militias and their supporters to give up the option of war and engage in a peace process that’s led by the UN.”


Hamas rejects PA’s call for Palestinian local elections

Hamas rejects PA’s call for Palestinian local elections
Updated 52 min 13 sec ago

Hamas rejects PA’s call for Palestinian local elections

Hamas rejects PA’s call for Palestinian local elections
  • Hamas is a long-standing rival of the Palestinian Authority
  • Hamas, which was furious by Abbas's general election postponement, said Wednesday that it "would not be part of... fragmented municipal elections"

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Hamas, the Islamist group that runs Gaza, said Wednesday it would not participate in municipal Palestinians elections set by the Palestinian Authority for December unless a general election is also called.
Hamas is a long-standing rival of the PA, based in the occupied West Bank, and had supported the decision to hold Palestinian legislative and presidential elections in May and July.
But president Mahmud Abbas in April indefinitely postponed those votes, which would have been the first Palestinian elections in 15 years.
Abbas cited Israel’s refusal to guarantee voting in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim as their future capital.
But Palestinian experts said Abbas balked out of fear that Hamas would sweep the polls, in a repeat of 2006 results that the president’s Fatah movement did not accept.
Hamas, which was furious by Abbas’s general election postponement, said Wednesday that it “would not be part of... fragmented municipal elections.”
“The right solution is to hold comprehensive elections” for the Palestinian presidency, Palestinian legislative council, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), municipal bodies and trade and student unions, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told reporters.
Those votes could happen “simultaneously or according to a nationally agreed timetable,” he said.
“If that is plan, we are ready to participate.”
The municipal elections called by the PA would take place in 387 localities throughout the West Bank and Gaza on December 11, and then in 90 other places at a later date that has yet to be set.
Of the 477 voting sites, just 11 were in Gaza.
Hamas’s rejection of the process would make voting impossible in Gaza, an Israeli-blockaded territory controlled by the Islamists since 2007.
Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union but is seeking to bolster its legitimacy through election wins and by joining the PLO, a group of Palestinians factions recognized by Israel and the international community.


Tunisia’s Saied issues decree strengthening presidential powers

Tunisia’s Saied issues decree strengthening presidential powers
Updated 12 min 37 sec ago

Tunisia’s Saied issues decree strengthening presidential powers

Tunisia’s Saied issues decree strengthening presidential powers
  • The provisions come almost two months after his initial power grab
  • Under the current system, most of the executive power was in the hands of the government

TUNIS: Tunisian President Kais Saied took exceptional measures on Wednesday that strengthen the powers of his office at the expense of the government and parliament, which he will effectively replace by ruling by decree.
The provisions, laid out in a series of decrees published in the official gazette, come almost two months after his initial power grab.
Under the current system, most of the executive power was in the hands of the government and the measures announced by Saied clearly tip the balance in favor of the presidency.
“Legislative texts will be promulgated in the form of decrees signed by the President of the Republic,” one of the articles stipulates.
A second article says that “the President shall exercise executive power with the help of a Council of Ministers chaired by a Head of Government.”
“The President of the Republic presides over the Council of Ministers and may mandate the Head of Government to replace him/her,” says another.
Saied, a political outsider, came to power in 2019 on a wave of public outrage against political parties widely seen as corrupt and self-serving.
On July 25, Saied sacked the government, suspended parliament, removed lawmakers’ immunity and put himself in charge of the prosecution.
He has since renewed the measures, and has not responded to calls for a roadmap for lifting them.
Saied has repeatedly insisted his actions are in line with the North African country’s post-revolution constitution, under which the head of state can take “exceptional measures” in case of an “imminent danger” to national security.
Street protests in early 2011 toppled longtime Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, sparking a string of “Arab Spring” revolts across the region, and setting in motion a Tunisian transition to a parliamentary democracy solidified by a 2014 constitution.
Tunisia has won praise for that transition but, more recently, many citizens feel their quality of life has worsened in the face of grinding economic, social and political crises, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
On Tuesday, before his latest move, Tunisia’s Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party said that Saied’s measures to extend his powers risked setting in motion the “dismantling” of the state.
Ennahdha formed the largest bloc in parliament before the president’s shock actions.
Several hundred protesters, many of them Ennahdha supporters, marched through central Tunis on Saturday to demand a return to parliamentary democracy.


Jordan’s King Abdullah urges world to work together to resolve Palestine-Israel conflict 

Jordan’s King Abdullah urges world to work together to resolve Palestine-Israel conflict 
Updated 22 September 2021

Jordan’s King Abdullah urges world to work together to resolve Palestine-Israel conflict 

Jordan’s King Abdullah urges world to work together to resolve Palestine-Israel conflict 
  • King Abdullah also called for an international effort to help the Lebanese people recover from the humanitarian and economic crises in the country
  • In his address to the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, he asked for more global action to help refugees and to tackle the effects of the climate crisis

NEW YORK: A global partnership is critical to the efforts to resolve the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis, Jordan’s King Abdullah II told his fellow world leaders on Wednesday.

In a prerecorded message on the second day of the high-level Annual General Debate at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, he said the recent war on Gaza was a reminder that the status quo in the Palestinian territories is untenable.

He also highlighted the critical role of the UN’s Refugees and Works Agency in providing life-saving assistance to 5.7 million Palestinian refugees suffering as a result of what he described as “one of the longest-standing conflicts in modern history.”

“How many more homes will be lost?” the king asked. “How many more children die before the world wakes up?”

He added that the key to “genuine security” for both sides is a two-state solution that leads to the establishment of an “independent, sovereign and viable Palestinian state” where Palestinians can live “side-by-side with Israel in peace and security,” based on 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.

“Jerusalem is at the heart of this peace,” said King Abdullah. “Billions of people around the world hold this holy city dear.

“I believe Jerusalem’s holiness to Muslims, Christians and Jews can, and must, bring us together. With international help, the Holy City can be not a cause of division but a symbol of unity for all to see.”

He vowed that his country will continue to work to preserve the legal status quo of Jerusalem and its holy sites under Hashemite custodianship.

The king also talked about Lebanon, where a dire humanitarian and economic catastrophe has left millions living in despair and “family tables without food.”

He called on the global community to work together to develop a “well-planned, well-executed international response.”

“In this time of great need, we owe the Lebanese people our full support to enable them to rise from this crisis,” he added.

In addition, he called on the international community not to forget the millions of refugees in need around the world or the countries that host them, including Lebanon.


Morocco: 3 parties agree to form new coalition government

Morocco: 3 parties agree to form new coalition government
Updated 22 September 2021

Morocco: 3 parties agree to form new coalition government

Morocco: 3 parties agree to form new coalition government
  • King Mohammed VI appointed billionaire Aziz Akhanouch as prime minister earlier this month
  • A former agriculture minister, Akhanouch is one of Morocco’s richest men

RABAT: Morocco’s prime minister-designate announced Wednesday that a three-party coalition will form the country’s next government.
King Mohammed VI appointed billionaire Aziz Akhanouch as prime minister earlier this month after his party placed first in a legislative election, netting 102 out of the 395 seats in the lower house of parliament.
The coalition includes Akhanouch’s liberal National Rally of Independents Party, or RNI, the Authenticity and Modernity party (PAM) and the conservative Istiqlal (IP).
Formed in 2008 by Fouad Ali El Hima, a personal friend of the king and one of his close advisers, PAM has never before been part of a Moroccan government.
The Istiqlal Party is Morocco’s oldest party and has participated in several governments since the kingdom gained independence from France in 1956.
The three parties together won 270 seats in the House of Representatives, giving the coalition government a comfortable majority to pass laws.
“We will work together to form an effective and coherent majority before presenting the government lineup to King Mohammed VI,” Akhanouch said during a press conference. “We share many historical backgrounds and we intersect in a number of priorities.”
A former agriculture minister, Akhanouch is one of Morocco’s richest men.
He replaces Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani, whose Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) suffered a stinging a defeat in the Sept. 8 election. The party, which has been in power since 2011, secured only 13 parliament seats, down from 125 in the 2016 election.
The PJD’s leadership resigned en masse after this month’s elections and said the party would join the opposition ranks.
In a statement, the moderate Islamist party alleged “many violations and imbalances witnessed” during the elections,” adding that “the results do not reflect the reality of the political map and the free will of the voters.”