Saudi ban on Syrian produce puts Assad government in difficult situation

On July 6, Fayez Qassuma, vice president of the Export Committee in the Damascus Chamber of Commerce, spoke with the local Al-Watan newspaper on the Saudi ban on Syrian produce. He stated that Saudi Arabia banned the entry of fruit and vegetable trucks coming from Syria, because the boxes lacked a label identifying the type, weights and harvesting date of the goods. In effect, the Saudi ban came in light of the recent amendments of Saudi import rules.

Trucks have been waiting for more than 15 days on the Jordanian side of the Nassib border crossing to be permitted to enter into Saudi Arabia. Truck drivers have been waiting in very hot weather, lacking the fuel to cool the produce in the refrigerators for an extended period, putting the crops at risk.

In September 2020, Saudi Arabia allowed entry of Syrian trucks into its territory after an eight-year ban, by granting Syrian drivers an entry visa at the Jordan-Saudi Haditha border crossing, entitling them to cross into the Gulf countries through Saudi territory.

The Saudi ban on imports of fruits originating from the Syrian government-held areas came amid fears of finding drugs hidden in the hollowed-out vegetables and fruits that Saudi Arabia has been recently intercepting at the border, which resulted in tougher rules on imports, especially those coming from Lebanon and Syria.

Muhannad al-Katee, a Syrian opposition leader based in Saudi Arabia, told Al-Monitor, “Never before has Saudi Arabia prevented Syrian trucks from entering its soil, particularly since the trucks are for the private sector — and more precisely, they consist of personal properties. The Jordanian side usually prevents the entry of Syrian trucks.”

He said: “The recent ban is probably linked to the ban on Lebanese imports after [Saudi authorities] seized a drug cargo that Hezbollah tried to bring into Saudi Arabia, or because Lebanon is transporting its products in Syrian trucks. Away from the Syrian regime propaganda, Saudi Arabia is officially, publicly and clearly in favor of United Nations Resolution 2254 regarding Syria, and the political transition. We have to differentiate between the Saudi position and the Omani or UAE position [regarding the Syrian regime]. Saudi Arabia, which sponsors the [opposition’s] High Negotiations Committee, cannot approve the regime nor make it afloat.”


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