Agroup of Arab foreign ministers held a landmark meeting with their Syrian counterpart in Jordan on Monday to discuss how to normalise ties with Syria as part of a political settlement of the country’s more than decade-old conflict, officials said.
The talks are the first between Syria’s government and a group of Arab countries since a decision to suspend Syria’s membership of the Arab League in 2011 after a crackdown on protests against President Bashar al-Assad.
Jordan has called on Syria to engage with Arab states jointly on a step-by-step roadmap to end the conflict, tackling the issues of refugees, detainees, drug smuggling and Iran-backed militias in Syria – all of which affect its neighbours.
Before the ministers of Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan sat down to talks in Amman, Syrian foreign minister Faisal Mekdad met bilaterally with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi, according to the Jordanian foreign ministry.
They discussed refugees, water issues and border security, including the fight against drug smuggling, the ministry said. Amman has been fighting armed groups smuggling narcotics from Syria, including the highly-addictive amphetamine captagon.
Jordan is both a destination and a main transit route to the oil-rich Gulf countries for captagon. On Monday, Jordan’s state television said the military had thwarted a drug smuggling operation from Syria, leaving one smuggler dead and the rest fleeing back into Syrian territory.