Jordan’s foreign minister visits Syria in first trip since war

Safadi’s visit comes as Syria’s Assad received calls and offers of assistance from leaders in Arab nations.

A man walks past collapsed buildings following a devastating earthquake in the town of Jinderis, Aleppo province
Aid has been slow to trickle into opposition-held northwestern Syria [Ghaith Alsayed/AP Photo]

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi has arrived in Damascus on the first such visit since the Syrian conflict started.

Safadi will also head to Turkey later to show “solidarity” after earthquakes struck the region, killing more than 41,000 people in both countries.

“Safadi will discuss the humanitarian and aid needs that the two countries need,” a statement from Jordan’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday, adding that aid planes will fly to both countries.

The visit will focus on how Jordan, a neighbour that hosts tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, can help in ongoing relief operations, a source told Reuters news agency.

Safadi’s visit comes as Syria’s politically isolated president, Bashar al-Assad, received calls and offers of assistance from leaders in Arab nations, including the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Lebanon.

Critics of the government warned al-Assad would use the disaster to normalise ties with the rest of the Arab world, as well as divert aid through government-held areas in Syria to its supporters.

Jordan has sent large shipments of aid to Turkey and Syria, with the kingdom sending a medical hospital to Turkey and organising several flights and aid convoys through the country’s northern border crossing with Syria.

Amman initially supported opposition groups that sought to topple al-Assad, but later backed a Russian-led military campaign that regained southern Syria from rebel control.

Efforts to improve ties with Damascus floundered since al-Assad talked to King Abdullah II in 2021 for the first time since the conflict.

Jordan also criticised the Syrian government for failing to curb a multibillion-dollar drug smuggling operation to the Gulf through its borders, which Amman blamed on Iranian-backed armed groups who hold sway in southern Syria.

Aid into Syria

Aid has been slow to trickle into opposition-held northwestern Syria. A first UN humanitarian convoy crossed at the only authorised border point, Bab al-Hawa, on February 9.

On Wednesday – nine days after the first earthquake – a UN convoy carrying humanitarian assistance passed through Bab al-Salam after al-Assad authorised the use of two additional crossings from Turkey.

The opposition-run volunteer group, the White Helmets, which operates in northwestern Syria, denounced the UN decision to seek authorisation from the Syrian government, saying it allowed him to score a “political gain”.

The agreement to open the Bab al-Salam and Bab al-Raee crossings to UN aid followed a meeting in Damascus between al-Assad and UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths, who visited affected areas over the weekend.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies