Jordan's foreign minister visits Syria in first trip since war

DAMASCUS, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Jordan's foreign minister Ayman Safadi arrived in Damascus on Wednesday in the first such visit since the Syrian conflict between the two neighbours who have long been at odds over regional issues, officials said.

The visit, to show solidarity after the recent earthquake will be followed by one to Turkey, and will focus on humanitarian needs and how Jordan, a neighbour that hosts tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, can help in ongoing relief operations, Jordanian officials said.

"Safadi will discuss the humanitarian and aid needs that the two countries need," a statement from the foreign ministry said, adding that aid planes will fly to both countries on Wednesday. Syrian President Bashar al Assad met Safadi in a meeting that Jordanian officials downplayed as a political gesture towards Damascus whom the staunch U.S. ally is at odds with over a range of regional issues.

Assad has been seeking to benefit politically from the quake that has killed thousands in both Turkey and Syria and hoping to capitalize on it to break Western sanctions and ease his country's diplomatic isolation. read more

Jordan has sent large shipments of aid to both countries with the kingdom sending a medical hospital to Turkey and organising several large flights and aid convoys through the country's northern border crossing with Syria.

Jordan had supported mainstream rebel groups that had sought to topple Assad but later backed a Russian-led military campaign that regained southern Syria from rebel control.

Efforts to improve ties have floundered since Assad talked at the end of 2021 to King Abdullah for the first time since the conflict where Jordan said Damascus was not receptive to international community demands towards an inclusive political settlement.

Jordan has criticised Damascus for failing to curb a multi-billion dollar drug smuggling operation to the Gulf through its borders that Amman blames on Iranian-backed militias who hold sway in southern Syria.

Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Tom Hogue, Toby Chopra, Christina Fincher and Bernadette Baum

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.