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Russian Presence in Syria Keeping Borders Secure and Stable, Jordanian Expert Says

© Flickr / Isriya Paireepairit Jordan Flag
 Jordan Flag - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.12.2022
The 8th edition of the Rome MED – Mediterranean Dialogues takes place in Rome, December 2-3. The aim of the conference is to promote discussions among prominent leaders of Mediterranean governments, businesses, civil society, media, and academia.
In an interview with Sputnik on the sidelines of the Rome MED, Mediterranean Dialogues Conference in Rome, Zaid Eyadat, Director of Jordanian Center for Strategic Studies, spoke about the regional cooperation between Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt, the situation in Syria and refugees.
Sputnik: Your center has been researching future trajectories of regional cooperation, namely between Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt. What's behind the idea of a New Levant?
Zaid Eyadat: These new ideas about sub-regional alliances, commitment, and regrouping have emerged recently in the region. And there is an entertainment of looking at the Middle East not in some long way where there are sub-regional settings, each with its own priorities and challenges and risk analysis and views. Sure, we'll have North Africa. You will have the Levant, you have the Gulf. And sometimes people would like to think even of Sudan and Egypt in different ways. Now, to put that into context, Jordan always is leading the efforts for a peaceful, prosperous Middle East that is based on dialog and open and direct communications between states’ leaders and also people to people.
So the idea of investing in some kind of agreement, some kind of alignment if you wish, to tackle particular issues that of economic and social nature, but also from political and strategic - one is very vital and important. Therefore, this relation between Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq is not only building on a long history of cooperation between the three countries, but also represents a way maybe for the Levant to regroup again. Because there are issues of water shortages, refugees, food insecurity, energy transitions, migrations and others, all these countries are suffering from these problems. In particular, of course, the issues of unemployment and poverty for the most of the people. So I think each country has its own way of fighting. This could be a way of solving problems, I hope.
Sputnik: Besides the advantages which you mentioned, what are the implications? Are there any implications? What are the consequences for security, for instance? And how do the US and Israel see this idea of the New Levant? Are they happy with it?
Zaid Eyadat: I'm not sure about the Americans or the Israelis, and I don't really care about what they're thinking. I mean, this is up to them and you can ask them. Now if I understand what the Americans think, I think it's a good move for the Americans where you regroup certain countries in the region where they can work together to face common challenges and problems. I'm not sure this is good news for Israel though, because that means there is a strengthening among the Arab allies and alignment in the other part of the river where Israel might see it as a growing maybe a risk, I don't want to say threat.
But on the other hand, it also might be that three countries coordinating their work and their foreign policy could be also good news for Israel, where they can talk to Jordan and Israel, since they have peace treaties with the two countries. But for security issues, I think we are still talking about Daesh* and the remnants of some of the jihadists who left Iraq and Syria. Most of them came back to Jordan, and then they regrouped and they traveled again. We are in the center. We trace these things. We just published a new book about The New Jihadists. So with that, it is essential for Jordan to work closer with Egypt and Iraq to see how to secure border through infrastructures, through border monitoring and watching over and through information and data exchange, and intelligence exchange between the three countries. So for that reason, I think in security terms it is very important: infrastructure and intel exchange and how that can help the three countries facing security problems and challenges.
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Sputnik: One of the topics discussed by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and his Jordanian counterpart Mr. Ayman Safadi was the situation in southern Syria, with Safadi praising Russia's presence in the region as a source of stability. What in particular does Jordan gain from this presence?
Zaid Eyadat: Well, it was Russia actually who saved Jordan's border back in 2016 and 2017. The 70 kilometer agreement between Jordan, Syria, Iran, it was totally led by the Russians. So Russia's presence in the region, and in Syria in particular, has been very good news for Jordan in terms of keeping stability and security in the northern border. There has been a kind of reluctance on the southern border of Jordan between Jordan and Syria in the northern border, and because of that, we've seen a lot of smuggling. And the King of Jordan called it the war on drugs.
We actually launched a war against drugs and drug dealers and the militias and the Iranian-supported militias and the Hezbollah-supported militias who were trying to smuggle all these drugs and God knows what into Jordan.
So the Russian presence is keeping the borders secure and stable and keeping the situation within Syria under control in coordination with the Syrian [government] and with Jordan's initiative to reopen and to reestablish relation with the Syrian regime. I think the visit of Lavrov just reconfirmed Jordan-Russia’s common interest and common vision on how the situation in Syria should be dealt with.
Sputnik: How important is the issue of the Syrian refugees for Jordan? Can Moscow help in their resettlement in Syria?
Zaid Eyadat: Of course! How important? It is too important. It's a vital issue, first and foremost for the Syrians themselves, for the Syrian refugees. The suffering of the Syrian people you see in Jordan. You know, officially there are around 700,000 registered Syrian refugees, but informally, we're talking about almost 2 million Syrians living in Jordan who fled the war atrocities in Syria. And these are people's life. We're talking about 2 million people suffering: leaving their home, their houses, their family trying to make through the day, which is very, very difficult, as you know.
Now, with that also come all these kinds of tensions between hosting communities and refugees themselves, and the question is whether the refugees are staying forever or these people will be leaving. And if they do leave, they're going to go back to their countries or to be resettled to a third destination. Nothing is settled on that. Jordan is committed to the Geneva Accords and to the humanitarian law, where refugees have to be provided with shelters and safety. And that's where Jordan always calls for the international community to support Jordan, because Jordan's resources cannot deal with such a number of the refugees.
I remind you and your followers that also Jordan has received many waves of refugees: Iraqis before, and Palestinians before, and others. There are more than 40 nationalities of refugees that are living in Jordan. With Jordan's very limited resources and water, etc, this is an existential kind of challenge. Even the United States, with all its resources, cannot deal with more than 10,000 Syrians there that resettled and here we are talking about a small poor country as Jordan. We are talking about more than 2 million people resettling in there. That's where we need Russia actually to ensure that there is going to be a safe return for the Syrian refugees to their homeland and for those who want to go and settle in different place, also to find some international support for the resettlement of the Syrian refugees.
*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist group banned in Russia
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