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Syria's President Bashar Al Assad (right) meeting with Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi in the capital Damascus on February 15, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

DAMASCUS: Syrian President Bashar Al Assad on Wednesday welcomed “any positive stance” from Arab nations, including many that severed ties with Damascus since the outbreak of its civil war.

His remarks came during a meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi in Damascus, after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake rocked Turkey and Syria on February 6, leaving a combined death toll of more than 41,000 people.

Safadi’s visit is the second by a top Arab diplomat to Syria since the quake, after UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan also met Assad in Damascus on Sunday.

“The Syrian people welcome and respond to any positive stance towards them, especially from the Arab brothers,” Assad said, according a statement from his office.

He further emphasised the importance of “bilateral cooperation between Syria and Jordan”.

Safadi vowed to continue delivering earthquake aid and work to find a political solution to Syria’s 12-year conflict, Syrian state media reported.

Safadi also met with Syrian counterpart Faisal Mekdad.

“We discussed our bilateral relations and efforts to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis that ends this catastrophe,” Safadi said after meeting Mekdad at Damascus airport. “A solution that preserves Syria’s unity and sovereignty.”

Jordan was among the first countries to respond to the quake in Syria, sending at least three planes and dozens of trucks laden with aid.

“We have been cooperating for a long time, but we highly appreciate this visit because it comes at an appropriate time,” Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told Jordan’s Al Mamlaka TV after the visit, hailing Amman’s “generous aid”.

Jordan is among the few Arab countries that maintained diplomatic ties with Damascus even after Syria’s 2011 suspension from the Arab League over bloodshed in its civil war.

Communications were however limited and official visits were halted for several years until June 2021, when a Syrian ministerial delegation visited Jordan.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II also called Assad after the quake, having held in October 2021 his first official call with the Syrian president since the war began.

Analysts have viewed the momentum after the quake as an “opportunity” for Assad to return to the Arab fold as leaders have reached out to offer aid.

On Tuesday, a Saudi plane carrying aid landed in Syria’s second city Aleppo - the first in more than a decade of war and severed diplomatic ties.

Following the quake, Assad also received a call from Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sisi offering support, their first official exchange since Sisi assumed office in 2014.

Similarly, the ruler of Bahrain, which re-established diplomatic relations with Syria in 2018, called Assad in their first official conversation in more than a decade.