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Arab Summit: New Syrian-Jordan unity

By Ilene R. PrusherStaff writer / March 28, 2009

AMMAN, JORDAN – Monday’s Arab League Summit will likely be dominated by the absence of the Egypt’s president, and the presence of Sudan’s president.

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But a more enduring change for the region may get little attention: a new détente between Syria and Jordan.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad came to Jordan last week for the first time in five years and met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, thawing out what had been chilly relations between the neighboring countries ahead of the summit to take place in Doha, Qatar, on Monday and Tuesday.

The two have had differing viewpoints over a number of issues in recent years, spanning from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Syria's relations with Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah. While relations have been maintained through trading messages, Syria and Jordan had been avoiding high-level
meetings and kept an official distance from each other. Last year, when the Arab summit was hosted in Syria, Jordan sent a noticeably low-level delegation.

Jordanian officials say that the detente comes as part of the natural course of things ahead of the summit, at which there will be a renewed attempt at Arab unity on issues such as the Arab Peace Initiative proposed by Saudi Arabia, which offered Israel recognition in exchange for a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

At the summit, a Jordanian government minister said, the Arab world would consider the feasibility of the two-state solution, given the right-wing inclination of the incoming Israeli government under Benjamin Netanyahu.

"This is part of unifying Arab ranks to see what the political scene in Israel will come up with," says Nabil el-Sharif, the acting foreign minister and the minister of state for media affairs.

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