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Jordan's relations with Syria

Jan 24,2019 - Last updated at Jan 24,2019

Jordan's decision to upgrade its diplomatic relations with Syria has to be seen in a wider context, and not as a sign of approval of Damascus' domestic policies and practices or to suggest that all is fine in the country.

For starters, Jordan never broke relations with Syria, even at the height of international and regional criticism of the country's oppressive policies after the start of the uprising in the country back in 2011. Jordan has always maintained the conviction that cutting off relations with Damascus is not a constructive way to influence its policies and practices. Quite the contrary, only by maintaining relations and keeping lines of communications open with the Syrian regime could there be an opportunity to mend things in Syria and end the bloody civil war that ensued.

The reopening of the Jaber/Nasib crossing in October last year was clearly a gesture to give peaceful transitions in Syria a chance to nurture and grow. Isolating Syria is never a solution. Maintaining diplomatic relations with it is, therefore, an opportunity to bring the country into the international and regional fold by promoting genuine democracy in the country.

On the other hand, Jordan should remain vigilant on how Syria responds to the positive gesture from Amman. The Syrian regime still has a long way to go before its relations with Arab and non-Arab nations can return to where they had been before the civil war turned ugly.

Jordan aims to encourage the repatriation of Syrian refugees to their homeland. The success of this policy depends on measures that Damascus aims to introduce to its domestic policies. There is no way that Syrian refugees would be tempted to return home as long as they fear what could lie ahead once they are back.

While the poorest of the poor Syrian refugees could be wooed to repatriate, most Syrian refugees await assurances that they are returning to an era of freedom, security and safety first, before they make a final decision.

Above all, the Syrian intelligentsia cannot be expected to go back to their country in the absence of assurances that real democracy is going to replace tyranny and denial of basic human rights. That is what the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Damascus aims to promote by keeping lines of communications with it open, and that is what Damascus is expected to do in the shortest possible time.

Damascus faces a huge responsibility in this regard, but anything short of that would keep relations with it cool if not cold.

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