Iraqi Oil Minister Amr Rashid said Wednesday, July 25, Baghdad and Ankara planned to open a second border gate in one a year in a bid to revive bilateral trade. "Our aim is to open the new gate in one year," Rashid said in an interview with the all-news Turkish NTV channel broadcast on Wednesday. "We have taken the necessary administrative decisions and do not expect any difficulties," he said.
Plans for a second border gate came as part of the recent rapprochement between Ankara and its southern neighbor, which is crippled under an 11-year-old international embargo imposed as punishment for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
There is currently one border gate, Habur, through which Turkish tanker-trucks carry 50,000 tons of diesel every month, operating outside the confines of the oil-for-food program between the United Nations and Iraq.
The cross-border gate is an important source of revenue for Turkey's impoverished, mainly Kurdish southeast and a means for Turkey to compensate for its losses ― estimated at about $35 billion -- in bilateral trade since the 1991 Gulf War.
"The number of vehicles crossing over will soon reach thousands. The second border gate will provide additional logistical support to the cross-border trade," said Rashid, who is in Turkey for an economic cooperation committee meeting.
Turkey, a NATO ally that hosts US and British jets patrolling Iraq's northern no-fly zone, has recently spoken in favor of easing the UN embargo. Turkey and Iraq have held a series of talks to revitalize trade and have restored train services between Baghdad and the southeast Turkish city of Gaziantep. Ankara has also sent several planes to Baghdad carrying humanitarian supplies.
Iraq, meanwhile, has said it will give priority to neighboring states in import contracts under the UN oil-for-food program for their support at the United Nations, notably in blocking this month a US and British attempt to retool the sanctions program. Baghdad wants to see the whole embargo scrapped. ― (AFP, Ankara)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )