DAMASCUS, Syria — Syria is to expel Jordan’s charge d’affaires, in a tit-for-tat move hours after Amman gave the Syrian ambassador 24 hours to leave the kingdom, state-run television said Monday.
“The Syrian foreign ministry will order the expulsion of the Jordanian charge d’affaires to Damascus, after the Jordanian foreign ministry declared the Syrian ambassador to Amman persona non grata,” said Al-Ikhbariya television.
It quoted a foreign ministry statement as saying that the Jordanian charge d’affaires is now considered by Damascus persona non grata as well.
Earlier, Jordan’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Sabah Rafi said Syrian ambassador Bahjat Suleiman’s expulsion came after “repeated insults to Jordan and its leadership, institutions and citizens, through his meetings, writings and social media websites.”
Rafi said the government in Jordan, which is hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Syrian conflict, had “repeatedly warned Suleiman not to exploit Jordanian hospitality.”
“Suleiman used Jordan as a platform to question its positions and make false accusations and allegations against the kingdom,” she said.
“He also used Jordan to directly insult brotherly and neighboring Arab countries and insult their leaderships.”
Last year, Suleiman attacked Jordan for hosting a meeting of Syria’s opposition backers, the so-called Friends of Syria.
He has also in the past described the around 600,000 refugees in Jordan as “terrorists”.
In mid-April Jordanian warplanes struck a convoy of vehicles in Syrian territory as they were trying to enter Jordan from Syria. Jordan’s armed forces routinely arrest smugglers trying to cross its desert border with Syria, but the strike appeared to be the first time since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011 that Jordan had openly used military aircraft to hit vehicles along the border.
Jordan’s relations with Syria crumbled after the uprising began in March 2011 to overturn the rule of President Bashar Assad. The desert kingdom is an important conduit for weapons and supplies to reach the rebels, say activists and fighters within Syria.
Jordan has absorbed 600,000 registered Syrian refugees, forming 10 percent of the country’s population. Jordanian officials estimate the real number of refugees is closer to 1.3 million.