“Jordanian Initiative” collides with political variables, regime’s carelessness

A side meeting of the Arab Liaison Committee before the official meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad to follow up on developments in the Syrian file - August 15, 2023 (X platform/Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman)

A side meeting of the Arab Liaison Committee before the official meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad to follow up on developments in the Syrian file - August 15, 2023 (X platform/Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman)


Enab Baladi – Hussam al-Mahmoud

On August 15, the Arab Ministerial Liaison Committee held its first and only meeting in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, and the final statement of the meeting did not provide anything new except for an agreement on another future procedure in Baghdad without specifying an official date.

After the meeting, which came to follow up on what was agreed upon with the Syrian regime in previous ministerial meetings in Amman and Jeddah, indicators continued that reflect a state of incompatibility between the countries of the Liaison Committee and the Syrian regime, reinforced by the events taking place on the ground in a manner that literally contradicts the “Jordanian initiative” and any Arab proposal or vision for a political solution in Syria.

On October 8, the Lebanese Foreign Minister, Abdallah Bou Habib, said that the Arab Liaison Committee had begun with enthusiasm, but there was intense Western pressure on the committee not to give anything before the Syrian regime on the basis of “It is enough that you have brought back the Syrian government to The Arab League,” according to what was reported by the Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat.

During an interview he conducted with Al-Sharq TV on September 27, and in response to a question about the change brought about by Jordanian communication with the Syrian regime in the Amphetamine drugs (Captagon) file, one of the files of the “Jordanian Initiative” awaiting implementation, the Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi said that Jordan gave targets and coordinates, and there was talk about the threats that must be confronted.

Al-Safadi pointed out that the regime promised to work to confront this challenge, but the situation on the ground is still very difficult, and the number of smuggling operations is on the rise.

Al-Safadi’s statements were preceded by a speech by the Jordanian King, Abdullah II, on the 20th of the same month, during the Middle East Global Summit in New York City, and he said at the time that he was not sure whether al-Assad was fully responsible for the country in light of the major problem of drug and weapons smuggling to Jordan.

He added, “I think Bashar does not want that to happen, and he does not want a conflict with Jordan. I do not know the extent of his control.”

At a time when Arab newspapers circulated talk about freezing the work of the Arab Liaison Committee, the Assistant Secretary-General of the Arab League, Hossam Zaki, denied the validity of this information and told CNN that it was “incorrect.”

This denial was preceded by talk of a “gap” in the Liaison Committee meeting between the regime on the one hand and the members of the committee on the other hand.

The Saudi magazine Al-Majalla said that the content of the discussions between the Arab ministers (Egyptian, Saudi, Iraqi, Jordanian, and Lebanese) and the Syrian Foreign Minister, Faisal Mekdad, during the Cairo meeting showed the large gap and the extremely slow progress in it.

Al-Majalla published on August 21 that Mekdad reluctantly agreed to have the Jordanian Foreign Minister hand him a copy of the Arab-Jordanian paper under the name “Step-for-Step,” which included what was requested from Damascus and what was offered to it, but Mekdad received the paper on the condition that it was not binding.

On October 2, Al-Majalla reported, in a political analysis entitled “Syria is immersed in details,” that the Jordanian paper that the Syrian regime had received “for review” was not read or reviewed.

Prioritization: Gaza first

Dr. Omar al-Raddad, a Jordanian expert in strategic security, does not believe that Jordan will announce the failure of its initiative, given that the initiative is “Arab” and was adopted by The Arab League, without denying that the Syrian regime thwarted the initiative by refusing to make any commitment to the summit’s decisions. The regime is also promoting its approach of victory over the Arabs and militants, an approach that confirms that the regime will not accept a settlement except on its terms, specifically in light of its relationship with Iran.

Al-Raddad told Enab Baladi that the Arab rush towards reconciliation with the Syrian regime has shifted towards lower levels, and this appears in the behavior of some Arab countries.

The strategic expert also pointed out that the position of the Syrian regime today, which is consistent with the Iranian position towards the Gaza war, will be a new determinant in the position on Damascus, and the Arab countries that adopted “reconciliation” will not be able to market al-Assad internationally in the face of his dependence on Iran.

This may be confirmed by expected scenarios in the event that Syria unleashes the Iranian militias to participate in the current war from the gates of the occupied Golan.

The regime’s behavior during the period following the Jeddah Summit last May does not indicate taking actual steps confirming the response to the “Jordanian initiative,” and the matter was limited to an announcement by Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, the Yemeni Foreign Minister in the legitimate and internationally recognized Yemeni government, to the “Independent Arabia” website. On October 11, an official communication was received from the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs stating that “they removed the Houthis from the building of the Yemeni embassy in Damascus,” indicating the possibility of handing over the embassy to the legitimate government. However, the media affiliated with the Syrian regime did not confirm or deny this information.

Al-Raddad also indicated a different order of priorities at the current stage, in which the presence of the Syrian file may decline and be postponed for the Arab Liaison Committee in light of what is happening in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Amer al-Sabaileh, Strategic expert and non-resident researcher at the Stimson Center in Washington, told Enab Baladi that, despite the United States’ opposition from the beginning to Arab normalization with the Syrian regime, it provided space for its allies to exploit the opportunity and considered it a “confidence-building” stage that is being evaluated, and it is now becoming clear it was not useful, and the Syrian regime did not provide much, as it is convinced that it “attained an achievement.”

Al-Sabaileh believes that the most dangerous factor currently is the change in priorities at the political level. Despite the events in Syria in October (the attack on the Military College in central Homs city and the regime’s escalation in northwestern Syria), there is also an ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip and an American focus on the situation in the occupied territories to protect Israel.

The file is linked to Syria, Iran, and the weapons that come to Gaza, and all of this will deepen the state of obstruction in the Arab efforts towards Syria, specifically since the enthusiastic countries did not find a tangible benefit from their efforts and did not achieve the desired results.

The occupied Palestinian territories are witnessing a war that began on October 7, leaving thousands of Palestinians and Israelis dead, in addition to continuous Israeli bombing of neighborhoods and residential buildings in the Gaza Strip, without excluding vital facilities.

With changed priorities and the presence of the United States in the region, and its lack of complacency in many matters, the room for maneuver is reduced and such initiatives are stalled.

Amer al-Sabaileh, Jordanian strategic expert 

An analytical reading issued by the Jusoor Center for Studies in August showed that the regime seeks to flood the Arab Liaison Committee with details and that its behavior in all the solution paths that were imposed on it and in which it was forced to engage was based mainly on procrastination and failure to adhere to any time frame.

The policy of procrastination also appeared clearly in the “Astana,” “Geneva,” and “Constitutional Committee” tracks, and therefore, it is not known how many rounds will be held by the Arab Ministerial Committee, which has just begun its work.

The Jusoor Center also indicated that the meeting ended with a state of dissatisfaction on the part of the Arabs (at least Saudi Arabia and Jordan) regarding the regime’s behavior in implementing the outcomes of the “Amman Meeting” and the decisions of The Arab League, with the possibility of this developing into official positions expressing dissatisfaction before the League convenes at the ministerial level in last September.

Unanswered demands

On July 10, the foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and Russia called on the Syrian regime to adhere to the “Jordanian initiative” and begin taking necessary steps to reach a comprehensive solution to the Syrian “crisis.”

The final statement after the joint ministerial meeting of the strategic dialogue between the Gulf Cooperation Council and Russia, which was held at its sixth session in Moscow, stated that the ministers “expressed their hope that the Syrian government will take the initiative and begin taking all necessary steps to reach a comprehensive solution to the crisis.”

About three months later, during their meeting with their European counterparts, the Gulf and European ministers affirmed their country’s commitment to reaching a comprehensive political solution in Syria in accordance with international resolutions and their support for the political process led by the United Nations.

This came in a statement following the conclusion of the 27th meeting of the Joint Council of the Arab Gulf States and the European Union, which was held on October 10 in the Omani capital, Muscat.

The Joint Council then reaffirmed its commitment to reaching a comprehensive political solution to the Syrian crisis in a way that preserves Syria’s unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, meets the aspirations of its people, is consistent with international humanitarian law, and is consistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 (2015).

The statement affirmed support for the political process and the step-for-step approach for the full implementation of the UNSC resolution that paves the road for a political transitional period and guarantees safe and voluntary refugee returns and release of arbitrarily detained persons.



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