Iraq, Turkey restore railway links
Iraq and Turkey have restored regular railway links after a 20-year break with the arrival of a Turkish freight train in Baghdad, the official news agency INA reported Saturday, July 14.
The first train rolled in overnight Friday with a cargo of 450 tons of goods ordered under the UN oil-for-food program, said the deputy director general of Iraqi railways, Falah Hassan, quoted by INA.
He said the line would also be used for Iraqi imports from Eastern Europe, without giving a timetable for the freight service.
A passenger train with two sleeper cars will run a weekly service starting from Baghdad on July 20, said Hassan.
The 11-12 hour journey will link Baghdad and Mardin in southeast Turkey, passing through northeast Syria in the absence of a direct line through the mountainous border region.
The reopening of the link, dating back to the Ottoman Empire but suspended since 1981, was agreed at a meeting in Ankara last January. A first train arrived from Mardin on May 6 in a trial run.
Iraq also resumed rail links with the Syrian town of Aleppo in August 2000.
Trains are the cheapest form of transportation in Iraq, which has remained under UN sanctions ever since its August 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Trade in essential goods is authorized under the UN humanitarian program. — (AFP, Baghdad)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)