Turkey conflict troubles border trade with Iran
A Turkish soldier stands guard at the Esendere border gate, between Turkey and Iran. (AFP/Bulent Kilic)
Recent escalation of violence between Turkish security forces and PKK militants has taken its toll on cross-border trade with Iran, dealing a serious blow to land transportation.
Trucks carrying goods between the two countries as well as passenger trains and buses have come under attack in Turkey’s restive southeast, leaving at least one Iranian driver dead.
Turkish transportation companies are reporting as much as a 20 percent loss in business as the unrest looks set to spread.
Turkey transported nearly $4 billion worth of goods to Iran in 2014. The country’s International Transporters Association (UND) says it is unlikely to approach the figure this year.
As many as 600 trucks crossed the Turkish border into Iran per day to carry goods. This number has fallen to 150 after the recent rise in unrest.
Some Iranian and Turkish truckers have seen their vehicles set on fire by assailants.
Turkish officials say drivers of lorries are refusing to hit the road in fear of being kidnapped by PKK or other attacks. As a result, most firms are dumping goods near the border city of Mersin since they are unable to find trucks for transportation.
“The transportation business faces the risk of stagnation due to problems in the east,” Hakkı Keles, vice president of the UND, was quoted by the Turkish daily Today's Zaman as saying.
The unrest has also hit the lira hard. The currency sank to its lowest levels this week not seen since May 2010. Many exporters are worried amid the political uncertainty which the last week’s failure to form a coalition government in Turkey has created.
Transportation companies in Turkey’s west are not unscathed. Keles said many truckers in the country’s west are assigned to carry cargoes from Europe to eastern border towns or markets in Asia and Far East but the crisis has left them stranded as well.
UND has 1,200 transportation companies under its belt out of nearly 2,200 firms operating across Turkey. Many of them are affected and see business flailing as a result of the unrest.
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