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Jordan’s Abdullah receives first call from Syria’s Assad since start of conflict

FILE PHOTO: Jordan's King Abdullah II speaks after being welcomed by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to U.S. Capitol
FILE PHOTO: Jordan’s King Abdullah II speaks after being welcomed by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., July 22, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

October 3, 2021

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

AMMAN (Reuters) -Jordan’s King Abdullah received a phone call from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the royal palace said on Sunday in what officials said was the first such communication since the start of the conflict in Syria a decade ago.

The conversation was the latest step in a recent normalisation of ties between leaders who had long been on opposing sides in Syria’s civil war, with Jordan supporting Syrian Western-backed mainstream rebels seeking to drive Assad from power.

“They discussed relations between the two brotherly countries and ways of enhancing cooperation,” the Jordanian palace statement said.

King Abdullah told Assad his country supported the territorial integrity of its northern neighbour and efforts to preserve its “stability and sovereignty”, the palace statement said.

The king had called for Assad to step down after the Syrian leader’s bloody crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy protests at the start of the conflict in 2011 and Jordan became a conduit for Western and Arab weapon supplies to forces trying to oust Assad.

The staunch U.S. ally has, however, in the last few months accelerated steps to normalise ties with Syria and nearly two weeks ago received the Syrian defence minister in a rare visit to coordinate cross-border security.

King Abdullah, who said in an interview with CNN in July that Assad was there to stay, has been pressing Washington for months to engage Syria and Russia, saying this is needed to wean the country away from Iran, officials say.

Abdullah, who met Russian President Vladimir Putin in August, hopes Russia will also rein in the growing foothold of pro-Iranian militias along the Syrian border with Jordan, officials add.

Jordan last week fully reopened a border crossing with Syria to boost investment and trade that had suffered during the decade-old conflict

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-KhalidiEditing by David Clarke, Philippa Fletcher and Frances Kerry)

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