Turkey and Iraq have agreed to open two new gates along their common border to boost trade and accommodate increasing traffic between the two neighbors, Today’s Zaman has learned.
The issue was discussed during a two-day visit by Iraqi Foreign Affairs Minister Hoshyar Zebari in Ankara on Wednesday. According to the information obtained by Today’s Zaman from Customs and Trade Ministry officials, the formal agreement for the opening of the first border gate will be signed towards the end of the year, and the gate is expected to be in operation by the end of 2012.
Turkey hopes that new crossing points will serve as alternative transit routes for Turkish trucks en route to Middle Eastern countries in the event border gates with Syria are closed because of the violent crackdown by the Syrian regime on the opposition. The gate will be located in the Aktepe-Bacuka region to the west of the Harbur border gate, which is currently the only crossing between the two neighbors.
The second gate is planned in the southeastern province of Şırnak’s Ovaköy district, and its opening will be coordinated with the development of the Turkey-Iraq railway project. Both trains and cars would be able to use the Ovaköy border gate once it is built. Technical delegations from both sides will meet in November to work out the details of the new border gates.
In August, the latest available figures showed that Iraq was the second largest importer of goods from Turkey. Exports to the southern neighbor had increased by 25 percent over the same period last year. Turkish businesses have also expanded their foothold, particularly in northern Iraq in the past few years, with a large share of products exported to the region supplied by Turkey. Turkey exported $6 billion worth of good to Iraq in 2010, and the volume is expected to increase to $20 billion in 2013.