x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 September 2017

Jordan's king 'deeply concerned' with southern Syria situation

Border with Syria will reopen only 'when the right security conditions materialise', King Abdullah says

King Abdullah of Jordan said his country's border with Syria would only re-open 'when the right security condition materialise on the ground'. Reuters
King Abdullah of Jordan said his country's border with Syria would only re-open 'when the right security condition materialise on the ground'. Reuters

King Abdullah of Jordan said he was “deeply concerned” with the situation in southern Syria.

“Our top priority is to protect our northern border against terrorists and foreign militias,” he told the state-run Petra news agency in an interview published on Thursday. “Jordan is actively engaged in the international alliance to fight terrorism.”

King Abdullah said there were positive developments in the fight against ISIL in Syria and the military campaign against the extremists “could push them south towards Jordan”.

“We are ready and capable of dealing with them in full capacity and with any escalation that might pose a danger to us, whether it is ISIL or any foreign groups fighting in Syria or operations that target civilians near our border,” he said.

He said Jordan’s border with Syria would reopen only “when the right security conditions materialise on the ground”.

“Liberating the areas from the terrorists ISIL in Iraq and Syria does not mean it is the end, because ISIL may reappear if we do not find deep-rooted solutions for the different crises that the Arab countries are experiencing,” said King Abdullah, who will be attending the UN General Assembly in New York next week.

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As for the ceasefire in south-western Syria, which was brokered in July by Jordan, Russia and the US, King Abdullah said it could be replicated elsewhere in the war-torn country.

“The ceasefire in south-western Syrian provides an opportunity for a political solution,” he said.

Russia has proposed creating similar “de-escalation” zones in several areas in Syria.

King Abdullah met Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in Jordan earlier this week to discuss the requirements for such a zone in southern Syria.

Mr Lavrov also held talks with Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi, who said afterwards that Jordan, Russia and the US were “determined” to set a safe zone in parts of Syria’s desert to the east — near the border with Jordan.

Amman and Moscow said last month that a joint monitoring centre tasked to control the ceasefire and humanitarian assistance in the southern de-escalation zone had begun operating.

Military experts and rebels said the extension of the ceasefire deal that is under discussion possibly stretches from the eastern part of Sweida governorate to Al Tanf, home to a US garrison where a Syrian group has been trained and equipped by the Pentagon in the past two years to fight ISIL.