Jordan Foreign Minister, Syrian President discuss refugee return, drug smuggling


Ayman Safadi, the Foreign Minister of Jordan, held talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Monday. The meeting primarily focused on the issues of war refugees and the ongoing fight against cross-border drug smuggling, according to a statement released by Jordan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Safadi’s visit comes at a time when there is an increasing regional engagement with the Assad regime. Notably, this engagement reached its peak with Damascus’s recent reentry into the Arab League after years of isolation resulting from the conflict that began in Syria in 2011.

The statement from the Jordanian foreign ministry emphasized that the discussion between Assad and Safadi centered on finding ways to facilitate the voluntary return of Syrian refugees from Jordan. The aim was to explore necessary measures to ensure a safe and smooth transition for those willing to go back to their homeland.

Additionally, the leaders also addressed various aspects of the Syrian crisis, including humanitarian, security, and political considerations. They emphasized the need for comprehensive steps towards a lasting solution.

Syria’s suspension from the Arab League in 2011 had been a consequence of Assad’s severe crackdown on pro-democracy protests, which eventually escalated into a devastating conflict claiming the lives of over 500,000 people and displacing millions. In a surprising move, the Arab League reinstated Syria’s membership in May, despite the absence of a political settlement for the ongoing conflict.

The Arab states involved are keen on finding a viable solution for the millions of Syrian refugees currently residing in neighboring countries, with Jordan hosting approximately 1.3 million of them. In this context, discussions between Jordan and Syria take on increased importance.

Moreover, multiple Arab countries are seeking enhanced security cooperation with Syria due to its transformation into a hub of illicit drug trade, primarily involving the stimulant drug captagon. The Jordanian statement further revealed that Safadi and Assad discussed the grave dangers posed by drug smuggling across the Syrian border into Jordan. Both leaders acknowledged the urgent need for cooperation to address this pressing issue.

During his visit, the Jordanian Foreign Minister also met with his Syrian counterpart, Faisal Mekdad. The two ministers discussed the formation of a joint committee dedicated to combating drug smuggling. They agreed that the committee would convene in Amman at the earliest opportunity, underscoring the shared commitment to address the issue effectively.

In recent years, Jordanian security forces have intensified border controls and periodically announced successful interceptions of drug and weapons smuggling attempts originating from Syria. This strengthened border security reflects the gravity of the situation and the determination to curb illicit activities.

The meeting between Ayman Safadi and Bashar al-Assad signifies a notable step towards addressing the challenges posed by the Syrian crisis. As regional engagement with the Assad regime continues to evolve, the focus on facilitating the voluntary return of refugees and combatting drug smuggling demonstrates a shared commitment to finding sustainable solutions for the region’s stability and security.

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