Major challenges face Jordan's anti-narcotics border security plans, Saudi official says

Jordan is the main conduit for drugs from Syria to inner Arabia

Jordanian soldiers patrol along the border with Syria to prevent drug trafficking. AFP
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A Saudi official said on Wednesday that although Jordan has made advances in countering narcotics smuggling, major challenges remain.

Over the past five years, Jordan has become a main conduit for drugs flowing into Saudi Arabia, particularly the amphetamine Captagon, which Arab officials say is primarily sourced from areas in southern Syria under the control of President Bashar Al Assad.

In rare public remarks on a critical issue that has affected ties between the two countries, Saudi Hajj Minister Tawfiq Al Rabiah praised Jordan's “exceptional” border security efforts, according to Jordan's official news agency.

He spoke on how the kingdom's fight against drug and weapons trafficking is complicated by “smugglers who are now using modern and advanced methods”.

Mr Al Rabiah made his remarks after meeting Jordanian Interior Minister Mazen Al Faraya in Amman.

The two countries agreed to form a border committee to “follow up on all logistics related to developing the border between the two countries”, Jordan's officials news agency said.

Halting narcotics flows has been one of the main objectives in a region-wide drive for normalisation with Mr Al Assad, who was invited to an Arab League summit in Riyadh in May.

The Syrian President has denied that his country has anything to do with the narcotics business, blaming it on unnamed neighbouring countries.

Jordanian officials have accused the Syrian military and pro-Iranian militias allied with Mr Al Assad of sponsoring drug trafficking. Amman has boosted security and surveillance on the border with southern Syria, with the help of the US and other western allies.

Authorities in Amman have not given any figures on the incoming drug volumes or detailed how much is being transported to Saudi Arabia, widely seen as the main market for Captagon.

Mr Al Faraya said Jordan is keen “not to allow drugs and weapons smugglers, particularly from the Syrian side, to bring in any contraband to Jordan or any other country”.

Jordanian authorities “are continuing to co-ordinate with the Saudi side … to prevent any smuggling or entry of narcotics into the Arabian Gulf”, he said.

Updated: September 14, 2023, 5:17 AM