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Syrian and Jordanian army and intelligence chiefs meet over border drug war

Talks on curbing a growing drug trade along their mutual border also tackled the threat such drugs posed to regional stability
Seized drugs, including Captagon, are displayed for the media in the town of Marea, in the northern Aleppo countryside, on 24 May 2022 (AFP/File photo)

Army and security chiefs from Jordan and Syria met on Sunday to curb a growing drug trade along their mutual border that has seen deadly skirmishes, blamed mainly on pro-Iranian militias who hold sway in southern Syria.

The meeting comes after Syria's neighbours got a pledge from Damascus during a meeting last May in Amman to cooperate with their efforts to rein in Syria's flourishing drug trade in exchange for helping end its pariah status after a brutal crackdown of peaceful protesters during the civil war.

The talks headed by Jordanian army head Lieutenant General Yousef Hunaiti and Syrian Defence Minister Ali Mahmoud Abbas in the presence of both countries' intelligence chiefs also tackled the threat drugs posed to regional stability, a Jordanian foreign ministry statement said.

"The meeting discussed cooperation in confronting the drug danger and its sources of production and smuggling and the parties that organise and execute smuggling operations across the border," the statement said.

Syria is accused by Arab governments and the West of producing the highly-addictive and lucrative amphetamine "Captagon" and organising its smuggling into the Gulf, with Jordan a main transit route.

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The kingdom has been alarmed about lawlessness in the strategic southern region were it echoes Washington's accusations that pro-Iranian militias protected by units with the Syrian army run the multi-billion dollar smuggling networks.

The US, Britain and European Union have blamed Syria's government for the production and export of the drug, naming Maher al-Assad, the head of the army's elite Fourth Division and the president's brother, as a key figure.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government denies involvement in drug-making and smuggling or complicity by Iranian-backed militias linked to its army and security forces. Iran says the allegations are part of Western plots against the country.

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Jordan, impatient with what it says are broken promises to curb the drug war, took matters into its own hands and in May made a rare strike inside Syrian territory where an Iran-linked drugs factory was demolished, local and Western intelligence sources said.

Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi earlier this month said in Damascus his country would not hesitate to act against any threat to its national security and urged Damascus to act more forcefully.

In the last few weeks, Jordan's army downed two Iranian operated drones coming from Syria with one the army said carried weapons, a worrying development for Amman which had in the past accused Damascus of sending militants to wage terror attacks.

Jordan requested more US military aid to bolster security on the border, where Washington has since the more than decade-long conflict began given around $1bn to establish border posts, officials say.

Jordan has a roughly 230 miles long border with Syria.

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