Jordan on Monday reopened its main border crossing with war-torn Syria, a key Middle East trade route, after a three-year closure, AFP reporters said.
The black metal border gate was opened from the Jordanian side of the crossing at 8:00 am (0500 GMT) as more than a dozen police and customs officials stood nearby.
Cars bearing Jordanian license plates queued to enter Syria as travelers expressed their joy at being able to cross the border.
Syrian businessman Hisham Falyoun, who lives in Jordan with his wife and children, was the first person to cross the border in his black Mercedes jeep.
“I am extremely happy, I can’t express my feelings. This crossing should have been reopened earlier as it is a very vital line for all Arab countries not only Jordan and Syria,” he said.
“I wanted to be the first person to cross to show everyone that Syria is safe, Syria is back,” said Falyoun, who was hoping to surprise his parents in Damascus.
Other travelers were likewise elated to make the crossing.
“Today is a celebration for us and I wanted to be among the first to cross the border,” said Syrian businessman Mohammed Hisham as he waited for his turn to enter Syria from Jordan where he now lives.
Jordanian taxi driver Imad Sariheen called the reopening of Jaber a source of “great happiness for all of us” which will help ease “economic hardships” caused by the closure of the crossing.
“Our conditions have worsened over the past years. Our work was halted because of the closure of the border between Jordan and Syria,” he added.
The border crossing, known as Jaber on the Jordanian side and Nassib on the Syrian side, was a key trade route before Amman closed it after the post was overrun by rebels in April 2015.
The reopening comes after Syrian government troops retook their side of the crossing in July under a deal with rebel fighters brokered by Moscow.
Vital trade artery
Before it was shut the crossing was a major link not only for direct trade between the neighboring countries but also for longer-distance transit, which was a significant source of revenue.
Its closure strained the economy of Jordan — a desert kingdom with little resources which is heavily reliant on imports and foreign aid.
Nabil Romman, a Jordanian trade official, told AFP in 2015 that “70 percent of what we eat, of everything we import and export, passed through Syria”.
Cross-border trade between Jordan and Syria in 2010 — a year before the war broke out — stood at $615 million (530 million euros).
Damascus hopes that resumption of activity across the border post will help revitalize its own economy which has been devastated by the war.
After seven years of civil war, Syria’s government has recaptured large swathes of territory from rebels with backing from Russia, but it still only controls around half the 19 crossing points with neighbors Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey.
Jordanian government spokeswoman Jumana Ghneimat said Sunday that the decision to reopen the border was taken after “Jordanian and Syrian technical teams agreed on the final measures”.
Syria’s Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar also confirmed on Sunday that Jaber would start working again.
According to an agreement between Jordan and Syria have seen by AFP, the traffic of passenger and goods at the border crossing will resume daily from 0500 GMT to 1300 GMT.
Syria also requested that Jordan send an expert to help with border checks at Nassib where there are no X-ray machines, according to the terms of the agreement.
The accord stipulated that travelers entering Jordan from Syria “must obtain prior to their trip a security permit” from Jordanian authorities.
And those who plan to use Jordan as a transit stop en route to a third country must show proof of their residency permit in Syria as well as an entry visa to the country they plan to visit.
Abdullah, a Syrian in his 20s who studies in Jordan, told AFP he had been waiting at Jaber since dawn for his turn to go across to Syria.
“I brought my Jordanian friend with me. I had promised him we would visit my country together once the border reopens,” Abdullah said.