Jordan pushing Arab peace plan to end Syria conflict


Amman (Reuters) – Jordan said ahead of a meeting on Friday to discuss Syria’s readmission to the Arab League it was pushing a joint Arab peace plan that could end the devastating consequences of the over decade old Syrian conflict, according to a source close to the matter.

The plan would be discussed at a meeting which Saudi Arabia will host in Jeddah attended by foreign ministers from Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries (GCC) to discuss launching a leading Arab role after years of failed international efforts to solve the bloody conflict, he added.

Syria was suspended from the Arab League in response to Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protests.

The kingdom had proposed forming a joint Arab group that “would directly engage the Syrian government on a detailed plan to end the conflict”, the official who requested anonymity told Reuters.

“The detailed roadmap deals with all the key issues ..and solving the crisis so that Syria can restore its role in the region and rejoin the Arab league,” he added.

Jordan was among the first Arab state at odds with Assad over the handling of the bloody conflict and said after he regained control nearly two years ago that there was a need to break the stalemate in the conflict.

The “step-for-step” approach on ending the crisis and eventually allowing Syria to rejoin the Arab League was the basis of the Jordanian-inspired roadmap, said the official adding his country hosts 1.3 million Syrians who took refuge and was still reeling from the crisis.

The road map was crucial to “tackle the humanitarian, security and political consequences of the conflict, the senior official added.

Hundreds of thousands of people died in the war, which drew in numerous foreign powers and splintered the country.

Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi raised the peace plan with Assad when they met in Damascus in February in the first such visit by a senior Jordanian official since the Syrian conflict.

Shunned by the West, Abu Dhabi and Oman also received Assad as normalisation gathered momentum elsewhere in the region following a devastating quake that hit Turkey and Syria.

Saudi Arabia, which has long resisted normalization with Assad, said after a rapprochement with Iran, Syria’s key regional ally, a new approach was needed with Damascus.

Riyadh invited Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad for talks on Wednesday in a landmark visit and both countries agreed to reopen embassies soon.

Jordan shared the plan with its ally Washington and major European countries, the official said, adding that a major issue to be tackled was the return of millions of refugees who fled Syria, many of whom fear reprisals if they go back.

The official said winning the West’s support was crucial to end the crisis and to lift U.S. and European sanctions on Syria to enable a massive reconstruction of the war torn country and address its dire humanitarian needs.

The blueprint also envisages national reconciliation and that Damascus accounts for the fate of tens of thousands of missing during the conflict, many of whom are believed to have died in detention centres, according to Western rights groups.

The presence of “sectarian militias”, a reference to pro-Iranian Shi’ite militias led by Hezbollah, was a major concern for Jordan and Arab states, the official added. Syria would also need to take steps to stamp out a multi-billion dollar drug trafficking trade to Jordan and the Gulf from it’s southern borders that both Amman and Riyadh say pro-Iranian militias are behind. Syria denies any involvement.

“We want this crisis to end, restoring security and stability to Syria is essential for regional security,” the senior official said.

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