Middle East

Jordan’s state carrier to resume flights to Syria for first time in decade

AMMAN, Sept 28 (Reuters) – Jordan’s state carrier, Royal Jordanian (RJAL.AM), will resume direct flights to Damascus from Oct. 3 for the first time in nearly a decade in the latest step to restore extensive business ties with Syria hurt by the conflict, officials said.

Flights had been suspended at the start of the decade-old conflict in Syria even though other airlines continued to fly to Amman from Damascus.

The decision was part of several steps taken at the end of a two-day ministerial meeting held in Amman between the two countries on boosting trade, investment and transport ties.

Jordan will fully reopen its main border crossing with Syria from Wednesday after imposing pandemic-related restrictions, Jordanian government and industry officials said on Monday. read more

Before the conflict in Syria, the Nasib-Jaber crossing was a transit route for hundreds of trucks a day transporting goods between Europe and Turkey and the Gulf

Although the Jaber crossing has been open since 2018 after the Syrian government drove rebels from southern Syria, trade has yet to recover to the $1 billion pre-war level.

The kingdom hopes cross border trade and renewed transport links will help boost its debt ridden economy hurt by a steep economic contraction last year from the impact of COVID-19.

“This is an important step to ease flow of goods between the two countries and Lebanon and the Gulf,” said Daif Allah Abu Akula, chairman of the country’s customs clearance companies association.

Jordan, a staunch U.S. ally that supported mainstream rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, has pushed for rapprochement with Damascus in recent months, officials said.

Jordanian businessmen had largely shunned dealing with Syria after the 2019 Caesar Act – the toughest U.S. sanctions yet that prohibited foreign companies trading with Damascus.

Jordanian officials say they have lobbied Washington to ease some of the tough sanctions placed on business dealings with Syria to help revive dealings with a main trading neighbour.

Jordan also said it was hopeful Washington would allow Syria to benefit from a plan to supply Egyptian gas to Lebanon via an Arab pipeline that crosses through its territory to ease a crippling power crisis.
Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi, Editing by David Evans and Steve Orlofsky

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