BEIRUT (AP) – Jordan’s foreign minister on Tuesday met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus, vowing to continue delivering earthquake aid and work to find a political solution to Syria’s 12-year conflict, Syrian state media reported.
Ayman Safadi’s visit to the earthquake-hit country makes him the first Jordanian official to do so since the onset of Syria’s conflict in 2011.
It marks a new thaw in relations between the two countries and more generally between Assad and the Arab world.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II had called Assad last week to express Amman’s willingness to send humanitarian aid.
Since then, cargo planes and trucks loaded with assistance from the neighbouring country have reached Syria to help with relief efforts.
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed over 1,400 people in government-held areas and displaced thousands more.
Safadi also met with Syrian counterpart Faisal Mekdad.
“We discussed our bilateral relations and efforts to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis that ends this catastrophe,” Safadi said after meeting Mekdad at Damascus airport.
“A solution that preserves Syria’s unity and sovereignty.”
According to a statement from Assad’s office, the Syrian president thanked Jordan for its support, and told Safadi that the Syrian people “welcome any positive positions towards them, especially from brotherly Arab countries”.
Jordan, like most Arab countries since the start of Syria’s civil war, reduced diplomatic relations with Syria in 2011.
Arab and Western countries generally blamed Assad for the deadly crackdown on the protests that erupted in 2011, and supported the opposition in the early days of the conflict, which displaced and killed millions of people.
Assad has since regained much of Syria’s territory with the backing of key allies Russia and Iran, and some Arab countries that once shunned him have been slowly rekindling ties in recent years.
King Abdullah II and Assad spoke for the first time in a decade in October 2021, discussing cooperation to bolster both countries’ ailing economies over the phone.
United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with Assad in Damascus last Sunday, while other Arab countries, notably Saudi Arabia and Egypt, have delivered aid to Damascus.