The government of Jordan has declared Syria’s ambassador to their country, Bahjat Suleiman, persona non grata and requested he leave the country. The decision, according to a statement from the Jordanian foreign ministry, follows a series of insults to the Jordanian government that “crossed the lines in diplomatic rules.”
“The government considers the Syrian ambassador to Jordan persona non grata and demanded he leave the country within 24 hours,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Sabah Rafi said Monday, explaining that a note had been sent to the Syrian embassy that he was being expelled from the country. Suleiman had “repeatedly insulted Jordan via interviews with media outlets and social media sites,” said the public statement expelling him. It also claimed that Suleiman had insulted other Arab countries, though it did not name them. Al Jazeera notes that the statement may have been “an indirect reference to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.”
The Agence France-Presse adds that the statement against Suleiman mentioned repeated requests from Jordan that Suleiman change his tone–that the government “had repeatedly warned Suleiman not to exploit Jordanian hospitality.” The government had warned Suleiman through Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh last year that the risk of expulsion from the country was real should he not alter the manner in which he spoke of both Jordan and neighboring countries.
In response to the expulsion, Reuters reports that the Syrian government declared Jordan’s chargé d’affaires in Damascus persona non grata, but the Jordanian government responded that he was not in Syria.
Reuters also notes that some observers told the news agency privately that they believe the move may be related to the Syrian presidential elections, set to be held on June 3. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad announced that it would use its embassy in Damascus to give suffrage to civil war refugees who had moved to Amman. The Jordanian government had warned against such a move, as it could cause security problems in Jordan, given that refugees were politically diverse and deeply divided in their allegiances.
Jordan has not been supportive of Assad. In March 2013, King Abdullah II told the Associated Press that Syria was “past that point” in which Assad could remain president peacefully, but “the most worrying factors in the Syrian conflict are the issues of chemical weapons, the steady flow or sudden surge in refugees and a jihadist state emerging out of the conflict.”