Jordan and neighbours to share information on drug smuggling

Ministers agree to set up 'communication cell' after talks in Amman

Three men who allegedly tried to smuggle more than 2.2 million Captagon tablets were arrested by Abu Dhabi Police last year, as drug flows continue throughout the region. Photo: Abu Dhabi Police
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Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria have agreed to exchange information to counter narcotics smuggling, Jordanian Interior Minister Mazen Al Faraya said after a meeting with counterparts from the kingdom's neighbouring countries.

The meeting in Amman was Jordan's latest attempt to tackle the problem through a mix of diplomatic efforts and military action.

Such efforts have been bolstered in recent years by US assistance in fortifying its border with Syria, the main source of the drugs. A large proportion of contraband, mainly the amphetamine Captagon, is trafficked through Jordan to other countries, particularly to Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Gulf.

“We all admit that there is a big problem, which is drugs, and that all of our societies are suffering,” Mr Al Faraya said on Saturday after the meeting.

He said the ministers had agreed to set up a joint "communication cell" to pass on information on suspected smuggling. He did not elaborate.

The Jordanian military said border forces killed five drug traffickers in a gunfight on the border with Syria on Sunday. They were part of a group attempting “to infiltrate and smuggle a large amount of drugs from Syrian territory”, a military official said.

Authorities in Amman have repeatedly accused the Syrian military and allied militias supported by Iran of playing a major role in smuggling drugs across kingdom's border with Syria.

Among these non-state groups are Iraqi Shiite militias that the US also accuses of targeting its forces in Syria, Iraq and more recently Jordan, where a drone attack killed three American soldiers last month. The attacks have increased since the outbreak of the Gaza war in October.

At the urging of Russia, the most powerful backer of the Bashar Al Assad government in Damascus, Jordanian and Syrian officials formed a joint anti-narcotics security committee last year. But the trafficking continued to increased, according to the Jordanian military, prompting a tough response from Amman.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry last month condemned air strikes by the kingdom on border areas perceived as a launch pad for the flow of drugs. The number of raids, which monitoring groups say have killed mainly civilians, had increased after hundreds of smugglers and militants transporting drugs and weapons tried to overrun the kingdom's border defences in December.

Jordan has not acknowledged carrying out the raids. The Syrian announcement was the first acknowledgement of the raids since they started in May.

The desire to curb the drug flows from Syria has been a major factor in a regional rapprochement with Mr Al Assad, who had been largely ostracised after his security forces violently suppressed pro-democracy protests that broke out in March 2011.

Mr Al Assad denies his regime is in any way involved with the drugs trade and has blamed neighbouring countries he did not name for what he called “chaos” in Syria.

Updated: February 18, 2024, 4:42 PM