Jordan-Syria Border Crossing To Open For Trade

Over the last year, the exchanging of goods between Syria and Jordan was hit heavily by the pandemic and long-standing conflict. According to Reuters, as of Monday this week, government officials out of Jordan confirmed the border crossing would re-open. Throughout the pandemic Jordan took measures to curb transmission of the virus which included closing the border between the two countries. On the Jordanian side, the gate is known as the Jaber crossing, but on the Syrian side it is known as the Nassib, per Middle East Online (MEO).

During the course of the conflict with Syrian rebel groups, the gates were overrun by rebels in 2015 which disrupted the major trade route (MEO). Although the crossing has been open periodically since 2018, trade profits have yet to recover to its pre-war level of $1 billion (Reuters). Pandemic related restrictions such as the blocking of international travel will be lifted on Wednesday according to Jordanian officials. A Syrian trade delegation will be visiting Jordan to discuss lifting barriers on “economy, agriculture, water, and electricity” later this week (Reuters).

Mazen Faraya, the Interior Minister of Jordan, said that after intense pressure from Damascus, restrictions on Syrian transit cargo to the Gulf markets and Iraq through Jordan will be lifted as well (Reuters). “We hope the moves will restore previous trade dealings before the conflict and revive lucrative transit trade” deputy head of Jordan’s chamber of commerce, Jamal al Rifae told Reuters. Along with transit cargo from the Gulf, unrestricted passenger traffic will be allowed from Jordan to Syria per Faraya. After the 2019 Caesar Act, the toughest U.S.-led sanctions yet which prohibited foreign companies trading with Damascus, Jordanian businesspeople had mostly shunned dealing with Syria (Reuters). This Act coupled with the pandemic has since caused an economic plateau in Jordan. Many businesspeople in Jordan have lobbied the government to press Washington on easing restrictions of crucial Syrian imports.

According to Yahoo Finance, in addition to the Jaber-Nassib crossing opening for trade, Jordan’s state carrier, Royal Jordanian, will resume flights to Damascus soon. Royal Jordanian flights have not flown directly into Damascus for the last 10 years. The airline has also planned a shuttle service for passengers wishing to travel to Damascus by land which will operate until final approvals are given for flights (Yahoo Finance). The decision to resume flights was made in a two-day meeting between officials in Amman to boost trade and investment. Daif Allah Abu Akula, chairman of Jordan’s customs clearance companies’ association said, “this is an important step to ease flow of goods between the two countries and Lebanon and the Gulf” (Yahoo Finance).

As Jordan is a strong U.S. ally, communications with Washington have been frequent and many have lobbied to ease restrictions placed on business dealings with Syria in hopes of reviving deals with the main trading neighbor. Jordan officials are also hopeful that Washington will allow Syria to benefit from a plan of supplying Egyptian gas to those in Lebanon through an Arab pipeline crossing through the territory (Yahoo Finance).

It should be in the United States’ best interest to support Jordan’s economic growth and attempts to increase bilateral trade with Syria being that Jordan and the U.S. are allied nations. Since trade for Jordan has yet to increase back to pre-war levels, the hope is to see a major trade increase through the Jaber-Nassib crossing and by Royal Jordanian flights returning to Damascus. Tensions remain high between Syria and the U.S. over the Caesar Act in 2019 which heavily sanctioned trade. Going forward, while the U.S. continues to try and boost their economy through sanctions, the impact on the trade of their ally should also be considered.