The Jordanian government has opened three crossings on the border with Syria this morning, allowing some 36 trucks of aid to access refugees fleeing the southern Daraa province.
Jordan, which has faced criticism from the UN and international NGOs for closing its border with Syria, maintained yesterday that it would not allow any refugees to cross into the country, despite the 95,000 Syrians amassing on its border.
Already hosting over one million displaced people at high cost to the government, Jordan has reiterated that the country cannot survive another influx of refugees. But the military has also expressed concern over “infiltrators” who could enter the country should the border be opened.
“The borders are closed and the army is being very cautious with the displaced, fearing the presence of… infiltrators with weapons and disguised as women,” General Khaled Al-Massaid told reporters.
Jordan has succeeded in convening negotiations between opposition groups and the regime, in an effort to bring the current assault to an end.
“It [Jordan] has helped form an extensive negotiating committee representing the South to reach an agreement to preserve the blood of innocent people and ensure the safety of the people to create the conditions for a final political solution,” government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat said in a statement.
Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi is also due to hold talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov today in Moscow in an attempt to come closer to a ceasefire.
“I look forward to a frank discussion to discuss how to arrive at a ceasefire as soon as possible,” Safadi said, adding that Russia, the Syrian regime’s closest ally, was a main party to any solution.
The region bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights is considered to be the cradle of the uprising against President Bashar Assad seven years ago that sparked the civil war, but the regime has chipped away at opposition-held territory in Daraa since the escalation began almost two weeks ago.
Syrian opposition groups reportedly began a new round of talks with Russian officials yesterday, despite the withdrawal of a faction of the Free Syrian Army.
Spokesman Ibrahim Al-Jabawi said the opposition had carried to the negotiating table their “response to a list of Russian demands” that had included the handing over of weapons and settling the status of opposition in a deal that ends the fighting.
The demands have reportedly been rejected by the factions, who have offered an alternative deal for a ceasefire, stipulating the opening of the Jordanian border as well as a cessation of all hostilities on the part of the Syrian regime.
According to the UN, at least 270,000 people have fled Syria’s south following the government offensive, in what was previously a de-escalation zone as facilitated by Russia and the US. The region is strategically sensitive, due to its proximity to Israel and Jordan.