Since the outbreak of the crisis in Syria in 2011, Jordan has been keen to adhere to a position of neutrality as much as possible, due to the geographical and demographic interdependence with its northern neighbor, but this did not avoid Damascus’ constant accusations of supporting terrorism.
The length of the crisis and its repercussions on Oman, especially the economic one, due to the closure of the border crossings between the two countries, and the doubling of smuggling of goods and weapons due to the deteriorating security situation, prompted the Kingdom recently to change its policy towards dealing with the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.
This step was prompted by the recent meetings of Jordan’s King Abdullah II with US Presidents Joe Biden and Russian Vladimir Putin, and to inform them of his vision and proposed solutions to end the crisis.
Washington considers Oman one of its most prominent allies in the Middle East, while Moscow is the main supporter of the Assad regime in Damascus.
The past few months have witnessed high-level visits between the two countries, the most recent of which was the visit of the Syrian regime’s Defense Minister, General Ali Ayoub, to Amman on Sunday, and his meeting with the commander of the Jordanian army, Yousef Al-Hunaiti, where they discussed files, including border security between the two neighbors.
This visit is the first since the outbreak of the war in Syria, and it came in light of major developments on the Syrian side, after the regime was able to impose its control over Daraa Governorate (south), the cradle of the revolution in the country, in addition to clear Jordanian concern, especially with the presence of thousands of militants on its borders. And his concern that the sparks of a possible conflict would not fly to his lands.
These are field data that necessitate Jordan to soften the side with the Syrian regime, but at the same time they indicate that Amman is seeking by all means, and through the system of international relations and its ties with Washington and Moscow, to end a crisis that has burdened it politically, economically and securityly.
Overriding the public interest
Muhammad al-Momani, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Jordanian Senate (the second chamber of parliament), told The Eastern Herald that “keeping the border security between Jordan and Syria cannot be achieved without coordination between the armies of the two countries, and that is why we witnessed an important military meeting that brought together the army commander and the Syrian Minister of Defense.”
He continued, “Jordan has an interest in the stability of Syria, and any talk other than that has nothing to do with the truth. Damascus is our geographical depth, as we are for them.”
He added, “We have not changed our position towards what our dear neighbor is witnessing, and we have always talked about the importance of a political solution that preserves its security and stability, and it is time for Syria to return to the Arab embrace.”
In 2011, a popular revolution erupted in Syria demanding a peaceful transfer of power, but Bashar al-Assad adopted the military option to suppress the protesters, which pushed the country into a devastating war.
Momani added that “the leaders of the major countries, including the United States and Russia, are aware of the importance of King Abdullah’s vision and his keenness to achieve stability inside Syria, and he conveyed his proposals during recent meetings with them.”
He expected that “the coming period will witness more coordination and consultative meetings between the two countries, to ensure the return of their relations to their previous era and preserve the stability of Syria.”
And he added: “Our region is one of the world’s most in crisis, and the public interest must prevail over any political rivalries, in order to reach unified positions that enable us to achieve our goal, which is the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with occupied Jerusalem as its capital.”
Renormalization of relations
Wasfi al-Sharaa, a professor of political science at Yarmouk University (governmental), said that “the current stage is witnessing a re-normalization of diplomatic and security relations with Syria, in preparation for opening the borders and facilitating the process of trade exchange.”
In an interview with The Eastern Herald, Al-Sharaa linked this step to King Abdullah’s recent visit to Moscow last August, where he saw that “it was to obtain guarantees from Putin to reopen the borders and make joint security arrangements with Syria.”
He believed that “it is possible that Jordan will take a step to restore the border posts with Syria, so that it will take over the task of logistical preparations as signs of goodwill on the part of Amman.”
After Jordan prepared to completely restart its border crossing with Syria, “Jaber-Nasib”, in the hope of revitalizing the economic and commercial movement, it decided on July 31 to close it completely, referring to what he said were “developments of the security situation on the Syrian side.”
The two countries are linked to two main border crossings, the Old Customs, which is crossed by the Ramtha crossing in Jordan, and the Nassib and Jaber crossing, through which the movement of trade and individuals was active, before the outbreak of the Syrian crisis in 2011.
Al-Sharaa expected that “Jordan’s Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi, will pay a close visit to Damascus to meet his Syrian counterpart, which is an important matter and will be in light of the meetings that took place in Moscow.”
In 2019, Jordan raised its diplomatic representation with Syria to the level of chargé d’affaires a.i., after its embassy in Damascus was open, but only administrative staff.
Regarding the visit of the Syrian regime’s defense minister to Amman, Al-Shara’ considered it “an important indication of Syria’s need for Jordanian security services, especially on the issue of armed militias and the possibility of the Kingdom playing the role of mediator in receiving weapons from them.”
Balance of the Jordanian position
Meanwhile, Muhammad al-Khraisheh, a professor of political science at the University of Jordan (governmental), attributed the development of his country’s relations with Syria to “the confidence of all regional and international parties in Jordan’s balance and efficiency in achieving stability in the region.”
He told The Eastern Herald, “Jordan is a major positive player for everyone in controlling borders, combating terrorism and political settlements at various levels.”
And he added, “It is known that Jordan enjoys good relations with Russia, the United States, China and others, and even extremist organizations do not consider Jordan a target, thanks to its balance in dealing with all issues and its moderate Islamic rhetoric, as it does not provoke anyone.”
And he added, “Jordan’s geopolitical position is very important to all parties, as it constitutes preventing any friction between the discordant forces in the region.”
Khreisheh stressed that “the Syrian side is fully aware that Jordan is its gateway to the international and Arab community, and any rehabilitation of Syria and the regime will be through Jordan.”