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Syria and Jordan agree to reopen vital crossing

Syria state TV says the government's terrestrial station has resumed broadcasting to the eastern city of Deir el-Zour and surrounding areas for the first time in seven years

Reported by: AP [ Published on: October 14, 2018 21:30 IST ]
Image Source : AP Syria and Jordan agree to reopen vital crossing

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Jordan and Syria agreed Sunday to reopen a vital border crossing between the two countries, three years after the commercial lifeline fell to rebel groups and traffic was halted.

Jordan government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat said the Naseeb crossing would be opened Monday after operational details are agreed upon, according to the Jordanian Petra news agency. Syria's Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar also confirmed the crossing's reopening, according to Syria's state news agency.

The two governments had earlier issued conflicting reports of when the crossing would open.

The crossing's reopening would bring major relief to President Bashar Assad's government by restoring a much-needed gateway for Syrian exports to Arab countries.

The resumption of commercial trade through the crossing would also be a diplomatic victory for Assad, whose government has been isolated from its Arab neighbors since the war began in 2011.

Arab countries have boycotted the Syrian government since the early days of the war, freezing its membership in the 22-member state Arab League.

"The Naseeb crossing is a vital lifeline for trade between the two brotherly countries Jordan and Syria through them to other Arab countries," Ghunaimat said, according to Petra.

Rebels seized the crossing in 2015, disrupting a major trade route between Syria and Jordan, Lebanon and oil-rich Gulf countries.

Syrian troops recaptured it in July this year after rebels reached an agreement with Russian mediators to end the violence in the southern province of Daraa and surrender the crossing.

The crossing is also vital for Syria's neighboring Lebanon, providing its agricultural products a route to foreign markets. Itis the only land route that links Syria's neighboring Lebanon with foreign markets to export agricultural products.

The Syrian government would also collect transit fees from convoys coming from Jordan. Last month, the Syrian ministry of transportation increased fees for empty and loaded Syrian, Arab and foreign trailers crossing Syrian territory.

The recapture of Naseeb crossing marked a major victory for Assad's forces, which have been on a winning streak since 2015 when Russia threw its military weight behind Damascus. The victory in southern Syria signaled the return of his forces to Daraa province where the uprising against him began seven years ago.

Separately, Syrian state terrestrial TV station resumed broadcasting to the eastern city of Deir el-Zour and surrounding areas for the first time in seven years, pro-state TV reported Sunday, the latest in government efforts to restore normal life to areas it has recaptured from armed groups.

Al-Ikhbariya said technicians have installed two transmitters to broadcast state television station and Voice of Youth radio, covering the city of Deir el-Zour and surrounding areas. Government forces, aided by Russian air craft and allied militia, chased IS fighters out of the city and most of the western banks of the Euphrates river last year.

In a separate offensive that occasionally raised tensions, rival U.S.-backed Syrian Defense Forces fought the militants on the eastern banks of the river and along the border with Iraq. The Kurdish-led forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition air power, continue to battle IS militants in Hajin, a small pocket east of the river.

On Saturday, IS militants stormed a settlement for displaced people in Hajin and abducted scores of civilians.

The U.S.-led coalition said it couldn't confirm news of the kidnapping. It said it has been dropping leaflets requesting that civilians leave the area for months "to avoid the brutal tactics" of the extremist group.

IS "has used innocent civilians as human shields in the past and leaflets often give them instructions for the quickest and safest exits, but we fully understand many have no other places to go," said Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition.

Monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had said 130 families were kidnapped in the attack that came amid intense fighting between IS and the U.S.-backed SDF. The attack also came amid a desert storm and low visibility. The SDF reported civilians were kidnapped but didn't elaborate.

Omar Abou Leila, a Deir el-Zour native residing in Europe who runs the Deir el-Zour 24 news network, said the militants kidnapped civilians during their attack on the Hajin camp, as well as SDF fighters.

"It is the last battle for the militants. They are besieged," Abou Leila said.

Ryan, of the coalition, said he could not confirm whether SDF fighters were kidnapped.

Images appeared on social media of the militants holding at least a couple of men wearing uniforms. In the posting, the militants boasted it has taken Kurdish fighters captive.

Deir el-Zour, Syria's oil-rich province, has been scene to fighting between government forces and insurgents since the start of the war in 2011. The militants seized control of most of it in 2014. But IS has lost most of its self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq over the last two years.

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Akour contributed from Amman, Jordan. Sarah El Deeb in Beirut contributed to this report.

Disclaimer: This is unedited, unformatted feed from the Associated Press (AP) wire.

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