Syria's Assad calls Jordan's king amid thaw in relations

FILE - In this May 27, 2021 file photo, Syrian President Bashar Assad supporters hold up national flags and pictures of Assad as they celebrate at Omayyad Square, in Damascus, Syria. Jordans King Abdullah received a call from Syrian President Bashar Assad, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, the first between the two leaders after a decade of strained relations over Syria's civil war. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File) (Hassan Ammar, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

AMMAN – Jordan’s King Abdullah II received a call on Sunday from Syrian President Bashar Assad, the first conversation between the two leaders after a decade of strain over Syria's civil war.

The call comes amid efforts aimed at boosting cooperation between the two countries, which are facing challenging economic conditions.

The Jordanian royal court said the leaders discussed relations between the "brotherly countries and ways to enhance cooperation between them.”

Abdullah affirmed his country’s support for “efforts to preserve Syria’s sovereignty, stability, territorial integrity and people.”

Syria’s state news agency SANA said Assad called Abdullah to discuss bilateral relations and “reinforcing cooperation in the interests of the two countries and people.”

The call is part of a new thaw in relations between the two neighbors after the Syrian civil war. Syria is facing sanctions imposed by the United States and many western nations.

Jordan has reduced diplomatic relations with Syria, like most Arab countries, following the start of the civil war there in 2011. Jordan hosted western-backed opposition groups and took in hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Arab and western countries generally blamed Assad for the deadly crackdown on the protests that erupted in 2011, and supported the opposition in early days of the conflict, which displaced and killed millions of people.

The tide of the war changed since late 2015 as Russia threw its military weight behind Assad.

The phone conversation also comes days after Jordan fully reopened its main border crossing with Syria, a commercial lifeline for the two nations. The crossing had reopened in 2018 but was shut again amid coronavirus restrictions and as the security situation deteriorated on Syria’s southern borders.

Syria’s defense minister visited Jordan late last month. A 10-year old deal to transport Egyptian natural gas through Jordan, Syria and Lebanon was also revived in September.