Amman: Jordan on Tuesday downplayed the expulsion of Syria’s ambassador to Amman, Bahjat Sulaiman, saying relations with the Damascus regime will not be severed and its embassy will remain open.
“The government’s decision to consider Bahjat Suleiman persona non grata and ask him to leave within 24 hours over his insults to Jordan does not at all mean that Jordanian-Syrian ties will be severed,” Information Minister Mohammad Momani told government-owned Al Rai daily.
“The Syrian embassy will remain open and work normally. Damascus can name a new ambassador anytime.”
Sulaiman left Amman for Damascus “this morning on a Middle East Airlines flight,” a security official said without giving further details.
Momani, who is also the government spokesman, insisted that “Jordan’s position towards Syria will not change.”
“The kingdom still calls for a political solution to the conflict in Syria that would guarantee the unity of Syria,” he said.
Jordan’s Foreign Ministry on Monday ordered Sulaiman to leave after his “repeated insults to Jordan and its leadership, institutions and citizens, through his meetings, writings and social media websites.”
Syria quickly reacted to Jordan’s move by announcing that it was expelling the Jordanian charge d’affaires.
On his Facebook page, Sulaiman accused the Jordanian government of “harassment.”
“In the past three years, the government of Jordan boycotted the Syrian embassy in Amman and used all means of harassment against me... including anti-Syrian state accusations and allegations published in local media,” he said.
Jordan’s powerful opposition Islamists welcomed the expulsion of Sulaiman.
“It was the right thing to do although it came late,” the Muslim Brotherhood said on its website.
Amman recalled its ambassador to Syria, Omar Al Amad, in 2011 after pro-Syrian regime protesters attacked its Damascus embassy.
Jordan, home to around 600,000 Syrian refugees, fears the war in neighbouring Syria could spread and has repeatedly warned of the impact of jihadists among anti-regime fighters.
Damascus, for its part, accuses Amman of backing the three-year uprising against President Bashar Al Assad by training and arming rebels - a claim denied by Jordan.