Iraq to open third border crossing with Saudi Arabia
BAGHDAD – Iraq is planning to open a new border crossing with Saudi Arabia through its Najaf province, hoping for greater cooperation, an increase in trade exchange and the facilitation of pilgrims’ movement between the two countries.
The step is expected to add momentum to the growing economic ties between the two neighbours and contribute to the revitalisation of cities and governorates located on the roads leading to the crossing.
On Thursday, Iraqi state newspaper Al-Sabah quoted Najaf Governor Luay al-Yasiri as saying that since the beginning of December, local authorities have begun their work on the road linking the province with the Saudi border, with the aim of opening a new crossing that will contribute to reviving tourist and archaeological sites, increasing trade exchange and facilitating the movement of pilgrims between Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
“We hope to transform the territory between Iraq and Saudi Arabia into a border crossing that includes areas for trade exchange, in a project that is similar to the Arar and Al-Jumaymah border crossings between the two countries,” he added.
The Iraqi official emphasised that “the financial crisis and the war against the Islamic State in 2014 caused delays in the completion of this project, which the companies of the Iraqi Ministry of Construction and Housing are implementing.”
Yasiri revealed that “Iraq agreed with Saudi Arabia to open new border crossings between them, and it is hoped that this road will be a corridor for trade exchange and pilgrims’ movement, which will constitute a major economic, agricultural, industrial and urban shift for the province.”
According to Haider Hamid, head of the Roads and Bridges Division in Najaf province, the Iraqi Ministry of Construction and Housing is working on implementing the 239 km road linking Iraq and Saudi Arabia in stages with a total cost of 168 billion Iraqi dinars (about $116 million).
Last November, Saudi Arabia and Iraq reopened the Arar border crossing, after a closure of nearly 3 decades, and the flow of commercial trucks between the two countries began.
The reopening of the Jdeideh-Arar border crossing played a key role in effectively increasing trade and economic exchange in various fields between the two countries and facilitating the movement of haj and Umrah pilgrims, which had a positive impact on several political, social and cultural aspects.
Iraqi authorities had previously announced the closure of unofficial border crossings controlled by pro-Iranian militias, which constitute a major economic drain on the Iraqi state.
The illegal crossings are the most prominent sources of supplying Iraqi militias with weapons and logistical equipment, and they are the main passage for smuggling hard currency from Iraq to Iranian territory.
Iraq has 11 land border crossings with neighbouring countries, in addition to other crossings in the Kurdish region.
The 9 crossings are Arar and Jumaymah with Saudi Arabia, Zurbatia, Al-Shalamjah, Al-Mandhariyah, Al-Shayeb and Mandali with Iran, Safwan with Kuwait, Trebil with Jordan, and Al-Walid and Rabia with Syria. Iraq also has 4 unofficial land crossings in the Kurdish region: Three with Iran and one with Syria.
There are also a number of other “unofficial” border crossings in the country.
Last July, the Iraqi Army announced that it would manage all the land crossings and sea ports in the country, with the exception of the ports in the northern Kurdistan region, with the aim of preventing smuggling and corruption.