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Interior ministers from 4 Arab countries agree in Jordan that illegal drug trade needs to be tackled

AMMAN, Jordan — The interior ministers of four Arab countries held talks in Jordan on Saturday to discuss ways of combatting the illegal drug trade in the region and agreed to set up a joint telecommunications cell to exchange information.

The meeting between the interior ministers of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, saw the four officials acknowledge “that there is a big problem and it is drugs and all our societies are suffering from this problem,” Jordan’s Interior Minister Mazen Al-Faraya told reporters after the meeting.

The drug trade has been a source of tension between Jordan and Syria, with the Jordanian air force reportedly carrying out strikes in Syria’s south targeting alleged smugglers and drug manufacturing plants. Smugglers have used Jordan as a corridor in recent years to smuggle highly addictive Captagon amphetamine pills out of Syria, mainly to oil-rich Arab Gulf states.

The vast majority of the world’s Captagon is produced in Syria, with smaller production in neighboring Lebanon. Western governments estimate that Captagon has generated billions of dollars in revenue for President Bashar Assad, his Syrian associates and allies. Damascus has denied the accusations.

The meeting in Amman came nearly a month after Syria’s foreign ministry condemned presumed Jordanian airstrikes against suspected drug traffickers on Syrian territory. In response, Jordan accused Syrian authorities of failing to take action to halt smuggling across the border.

On Jan. 18, a presumed Jordanian airstrike on southern Syria killed at least nine people, including women and children.

Jordanian authorities have managed to stop several smuggling attempts, including some in which smugglers used drones to fly the drugs over the border.

“We agreed today that if there is no joint cooperation by the countries taking part in the meeting, there will be no results like the ones we are looking for,” Al-Faraya said.

“We agreed today that this problem exists,” Al-Faraya said adding that the ministers agreed to continue meetings at the ministerial and technical level.

He said that the main aim of setting up the joint telecommunication cell is for officers from the four countries to exchange experience and “most importantly to trace drug shipments coming out of the countries all they way to their (shipments) final destinations.”

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