Iraq, Iran, Syria to accelerate preparation for transnational railway

Iran seeks to connect its Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea through road and rail links that go through Iraq. The groundwork has been laid for the construction as Tehran has signed several agreements with Damascus and Baghdad.

14 April 2019
ID : 21923
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Iraqi Republic Railways Company chief Salib al-Hussaini said a summit will be held between the countries to further discuss the matter, the Arabic-language al-Sumeria news website reported on Friday.

The comments made on the sidelines of the joint Syrian-Iraqi committee held in Damascus came a week after Iranian First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri spoke of an initiative to link the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean.

"We will connect the Persian Gulf from Iraq to Syria and the Mediterranean via railway and road," said Jahangiri, making reference to the construction of a railway linking the Iranian Shalamcheh border region to the Iraqi city of Basra.

The Shalamcheh-Basra railway project is estimated to cost 2.22 billion rials and can link Iran to Syria via Iraq. The railway is meant to accelerate bilateral trade that both governments are seeking to reach. They are targetting a 20-billion-dollar trade record in future. 

Last year, Iran exported $8.7 billion worth of commodities to Iraq, overtaking Turkey with $7.3 billion of exports. 

President Hassan Rouhani said last week that Iran and Iraq had plans to expand bilateral trade volume to $20 billion in the future.

The railway project was agreed to last month when Iran and Iraq signed five memorandums of understanding for the expansion of bilateral cooperation in various economic and healthcare sectors.

Observers have described the new agreements as a sign of Baghdad's serious intention of not being “party to the system of sanctions against Iran” as Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi said earlier in February.

Iran and Syria also signed a series of "historic" agreements earlier this year, including a “long-term strategic economic cooperation” deal described as a sign of changing realities in the Middle East.

Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis said the “historic” agreements covered cooperation in fields of industry, trade and agriculture. He called the agreement “a message to the world on the reality of Syrian-Iranian cooperation.”

Earlier, Syrian Transport Minister Ali Hammoud said a 32-kilometer railroad is required to be built by Iraq to connect Shalamcheh in western Iran to Basra's railway in southwestern Iraq and from there to Kerbala (central Iraq) and finally northern Iraq.

He noted that once the construction of the railroad is completed, Iraqis will be able to travel to different parts of Iran and Syria and exchange goods with Syrian cities, including the port of Latakia.

The Syrian minister stressed that following its completion the railway network will be linked to those of Central Asia as well as China and Russia.