Jordan and Syria say border to reopen on Monday

FILE PHOTO: A Syrian soldier stands guard at the Nasib border crossing with Jordan in Deraa, Syria July 7, 2018. REUTERS/ Omar Sanadiki/File Photo

AMMAN/BEIRUT (Reuters) – The border crossing between Jordan and Syria will officially reopen on Monday after being closed for three years, the two countries said on Sunday, though it will not be open to normal traffic immediately.

Meanwhile, the Syrian and Iraqi foreign ministers discussed accelerating efforts to reopen the border between their countries, Syrian state media said.

The Syrian government retook the area around the border crossing with Jordan at Nassib in July during a weeks-long Russian-backed offensive to drive rebels from their stronghold in southwest Syria.

The closure of the Nassib crossing in 2015 cut a crucial transit route for hundreds of trucks a day transporting goods between Turkey and the Gulf, and Lebanon and the Gulf, in multi-billion dollar annual trade.

Since then, Syria’s only normally operating frontier crossing has been with Lebanon, which itself has no other functioning land borders.

The frontier with Turkey is still closed into Syrian government-held areas, and open only into territory controlled by rebels.

Near Syria’s border with Iraq, a U.S. military base has closed the main Damascus-Baghdad highway, though there is a smaller crossing at Albu Kamal further east that is presently open only for government or military traffic.

INTERNAL TRAFFIC
Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari arrived in Damascus on Sunday for a three-day visit. He and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem discussed “speeding up” the reopening of their border, the official Sana news agency reported.

As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has taken more territory inside Syria, normal internal traffic has resumed between most big cities, easing the movement of goods and people and bringing an economic boost in government-held areas.

Technical teams from Syria and Jordan met on the Jordanian side on Sunday and agreed on the final arrangements to open the crossing from Oct. 15, said Jordanian government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat.

However, although the crossing will be officially opened on Monday, it will not open to normal traffic just yet, said Nael Husami, head of the Amman chamber of industry.

Syrian state television also cited Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar as saying the border crossing and roads leading to it were being renovated.

Opening the border will also be important for Lebanon, which relies on Syria for overland connections to all other countries because its only other frontier is with Israel, with which it has no ties.

In July Lebanese caretaker economy minister Raed Khoury said it was vital for Lebanese exporters to be able once again to send produce overland through Syria to the wider region.

Lebanese exports fell by 35 percent after the Syrian conflict began, Khoury said.

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