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Syria's gates to neighboring countries start opening after years of isolation

(Xinhua)    07:26, October 16, 2018
Syria's gates to neighboring countries start opening after years of isolation
A UN vehicle crosses the Quneitra border crossing from Syria's Quneitra province to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Oct. 15, 2018. The border crossing between Syria's southern province of Quneitra and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights officially reopened on Monday, Syrian state TV reported. (Xinhua/Wang Jian)

DAMASCUS, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- After years of isolation, Syria's border crossings are under the spotlight again with some of them reopened as the Syrian government has regained the upper hand in the more than seven-year-long war.

On Monday, the key border crossing of Nasib between Syria and Jordan was reopened for the first time since its closure in 2015, when the rebels took control of the town of Nasib and the crossing, which is under the same name, in the southern province of Daraa.

The Syrian Army captured Nasib in July after dislodging the rebels from the southern province of Daraa.

The crossing is the only conduit between Syria and Jordan and is also considered one of the most important land crossings in the Middle East as it was the main crossing for exports from Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria to the Gulf states and vice versa.

The crossing brings billions of U.S. dollars in trade revenue to Syria as well as neighboring and regional countries.

Tens of people crossed the border to Syria on Monday after it was officially reopened. Also, economic delegation exchanged visits through the crossing.

State news agency SANA said the Syrian side entered truckloads of 21 tons of fruits as a gift to the economic delegations in Jordan and in return, the Jordanian side entered a truckload of dates to Syria.

Also Monday, Syria has officially reopened the crossing between the southern province of Quneitra and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The Quneitra crossing was the only crossing for the Syrians in the Israel-occupied Golan Heights to enter Syria but not for the Syrians inside Syria as they are not allowed to enter the Israeli-occupied territory.

Syrian students from Golan Heights had used this crossing ahead of the Syrian crisis to study in Syria as the government has provided them with exceptional facilitations to seek education in their motherland.

Also, marriages had taken place between Syrians in Golan and Quneitra in the past.

There had been instances ahead of the Syrian war when apples harvested in Golan would be sold inside Syria through the crossing.

As the crossing has been officially reopened, Golan students are expected to visit Syria through Quneitra after they had gone through long trips through Jordan to come to Syria by airplanes.

The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) has also returned to the disengagement zone after leaving it in 2014, as the separation line between the Bravo gate on the Syrian side and the Alpha gate on the Israeli side is an activity zone for the UNDOF.

The rebels withdrew from Quneitra in July this year, after the Russians reached a deal with the Israeli side for restoring the situation in Quneitra to the pre-Syrian wartime and reviving the treaty of 1974 that ended the Yom Kippur war and designated the lines of separation between Israel and Syria.

Khaled Abaza, secretary of Syria's Ba'ath Arab Socialist Party's branch in Quneitra, told Xinhua that "the reopening of this crossing is reviving the lifeline between our people who are under occupation and on their homeland."

"This crossing is a lifeline for university students and also farmers who want to sell harvest and marketing it in Syria," he said.

Meanwhile, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem and the visiting Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said in a press conference Monday in Damascus that the border crossings between Iraq and Syria should be opened soon after the major defeat of the Islamic State (IS) in both countries.

Al-Jaafari said there is no reason not to open the border crossings between both countries, saying efforts are being exerted to reopen them as soon as possible.

For his part, Muallem said that the terror groups were controlling the crossings, accusing the countries backing them of standing against the opening of the crossings.

He also noted "we hope that the crossing between the Syrian city of Abu Kamal and Iraq would be reopened soon."

Both ministers did not say when the crossings will be reopened but said it should not take long.

Expectations for reopening the border points came as the Syrian army has cleared large swathes of border areas between Syria and Iraq from the presence of IS.

In July, the Iraqi forces worked to enhance the security situation on the border with Syria, installing cameras and flying drones to ensure the security against any threat from IS.

The border crossing that would be reopened is the al-Qa'im which is located in the southeast of Syria's eastern province of Deir al-Zour in the city of Abu Kamal.

Al-Qa'im crossing is considered as one of the major supply routes across the Middle East, which connects the town of Abu Kamal in Syria's Deir al-Zour to the city of Husaybah in the Al-Qa'im District of Iraq's Anbar Governorate.

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(Web editor: Liang Jun, Bianji)

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