Jordan fully reopened its main border crossing with Syria on Wednesday in a move aimed at boosting the two countries’ struggling economies.
Syrian trucks waited to enter Jordan at the Jaber border crossing and taxis carrying passengers lined up to pass through customs and immigration control.
“The security situation is now stable on the Syrian side and we hope it remains stable,” said crossing operations chief Col. Moayad Al-Zubi.
The crossing had reopened in 2018 after the Assad regime drove opposition forces from the south, but the COVID-19 pandemic led to measures being imposed to curb transmission of the virus.
Syria hopes wider business links with its southern neighbor will help it recover from a decade of war.
“The aim of these understandings is to boost trade exchange between the two countries to achieve the interests of every party,” said Jordanian Trade and Industry Minister Maha Al-Ali.
Jordan and Syria hope mutual trade will return to its $1 billion pre-war level.
Jordanian officials said a visiting trade delegation from Syria, led by economy, trade, agriculture, water and electricity ministers, would discuss lifting tariff barriers.
Businessmen from Jordan had largely avoided dealing with Syria after the US 2019 Caesar Act imposed tough sanctions that prohibited foreign companies trading with Damascus.
Officials in Jordan and Lebanon have urged the US to ease sanctions on Syria.
“We now are feeling there is a US move to give a bigger space for Jordanian businessmen to deal with Syria,” said Jamal Al-Refai, vice chairman of the Jordan Chamber of Commerce.
Andre Bank, senior research fellow and Syria expert in the German Institute for Global and Area Studies think tank, said the full reopening of the border crossing was a gain for Bashar Assad.
“It is another important step in the regional normalization of the Assad regime,” he said.
Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt reached agreement this month for Egyptian natural gas to be sent to Lebanon via Syria using a pipeline built about 20 years ago in an Arab cooperation project.