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Jordan’s king, Assad hold first phone call since start of Syria war

Jordan’s king held a telephone call with Syria’s president on Sunday, the palace said, in the first such conversation between the two leaders since Syria’s war erupted a decade ago.

King Abdullah II and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad discussed “bilateral ties and means to bolster cooperation”, a statement said.

During their call, Abdullah stressed Jordan’s “support for efforts to safeguard Syria’s sovereignty, stability and territorial unity”, it added.

There were no further details but the Syrian presidency released a similar statement, which was carried by state media.

The call was the latest sign of warming of ties between Syria and Jordan.

It came days after Jordan on Wednesday reopened its main border crossing with its neighbour, two months after it was closed due to renewed fighting in southern Syria between rebels and government forces.

In September, energy ministers from Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon met in Amman and agreed a plan to bring gas and electricity to crisis-hit Lebanon.

Syria was suspended from the 22-member Arab League bloc in November 2011, months after the conflict was sparked by the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Several regional powers, betting on the demise of Assad’s regime, suspended diplomatic ties with Damascus.

But Jordan maintained relations with Syria, albeit limited ones.

A political analyst in Damascus told AFP on condition of anonymity that Sunday’s telephone call could be considered “a new chapter” in ties between the two countries.

“It seems that Jordan is at the forefront of countries seeking to resume (full) relations with Damascus,” the analyst said.

In recent weeks, officials from both countries have meet for bilateral talks.

Syria’s Defence Minister Ali Ayoub visited Amman in September — the highest ranking official to travel to Jordan in years — for talks on border security and combatting smuggling.

Also last month, the Syrian and Jordanian foreign ministers met in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

In June, the Jordanian king held a summit in Baghdad with Iraqi leaders and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, discussing a “political solution” to the Syrian war and other regional issues.

Syria’s war has killed around a half a million people and displaced millions of others.

Jordan hosts some 650,000 Syrian refugees who are registered with the UN, but Amman estimates that more than a million Syrians live in the country.

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