* First public visit by a senior Syrian army official since the war
* Jordan wants Russia to curb growing Iranian presence
* Amman concerned about Iranian-backed forces at its border (adds quotes and more information)
By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
AMMAN, Sept. 19 (Reuters) – The Syrian defense minister visited Jordan on Sunday to discuss stability at their mutual border, the first such meeting since the Syrian conflict erupted ten years ago when the two neighbors have supported opposing factions, officials said.
The meeting follows a major military offensive to retake the last rebel stronghold in southern Syria, and after reestablishing control this month over Daraa, a town south of Damascus, as part of a deal brokered by Russia that prevented a full Iranian-led military assault. army units.
Jordanian Army Chief Lt. Gen. Yousef Hunaiti met with Syrian Defense Minister and Chief of Staff Ali Ayyoub about the situation in Daraa and to discuss issues such as combating the terrorism and drug trafficking in the region, the Jordanian military said.
“The talks are part of a desire to intensify future coordination on all common issues,” said a statement from the Jordanian army.
The elite pro-Iranian fourth division of the Syrian army besieged for more than two months the area where the first peaceful protests against the authoritarian regime erupted in 2011 before security forces cracked down and unrest broke out. turn into civil war.
King Abdullah of Jordan, a staunch ally of the United States, congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin on a visit to Moscow in August, where he said Russian troops who had helped turn the tide of the Syrian conflict in favor of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, had succeeded in stabilizing the country.
Jordan supported the main West-backed rebels who controlled southern Syria for years until a Syrian army campaign in 2018 aided by Russian air power and militia-backed militias. Iran retakes the province.
Thousands of rebels, who had once received arms and support from Jordan, have surrendered their weapons under surrender agreements brokered by Moscow.
Moscow at the time gave guarantees to Israel, Jordan and Washington that it would prevent Iranian-backed militias from expanding their influence in the area that also borders Israel’s Golan Heights.
The recapture of Daraa by government forces earlier this month brought control of several towns and villages that until recently challenged state authority.
Jordan and Israel are alarmed by the expansion of the Iranian presence through its penetration of Syrian army units and the proliferation of Tehran-funded militias now reigning in southern Syria, senior Western diplomats have said.
Lebanese Hezbollah also consolidated its presence in Quneitra, a province that borders Deraa to the west along the Golan Heights in Israel.
Military talks between Syria and Jordan, sources say, have also addressed a major spike in drug trafficking in recent months, which Jordanian officials say Iran-backed Hezbollah is behind.
Hezbollah denies Western claims that it is behind a multibillion-dollar drug trafficking ring that travels from Syria via Jordan to export to the Gulf.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Edmund Blair and Diane Craft)
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