By John Lee.

Kuwait will reportedly fund the reconstruction of a major border crossing with Iraq.

According to Anadolu Agency, Iraq’s Border Crossing Authority said a memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed between the two countries to prepare the infrastructure for the crossing at Safwan.

(Source: Anadolu Agency)

By John Lee.

The General Company for Land Transport (GCLT) has held a meeting with its Saudi Arabian counterpart to discuss the opening of the Arar border crossing between the two countries.

According to a statement from Iraq’s Ministry of Transport, the participants stressed the importance of the new border facility for commercial trade and religious tourism.

A report this week from Asharq al-Awsat quotes the Chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Customs Authority, Ahmed al-Hakbani, as saying that the new crossing will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology and meet international standards, adding that he expected it to become “the top global crossing in terms of technology.”

(Sources: Iraqi Ministry of Transport, Asharq al-Awsat)

By John Lee.

King Abdullah II of Jordan arrives in Baghdad today on an official visit to Iraq for talks with President Barham Salih, and Prime Minister Adil Abd Al Mahdi and senior officials, with a view to strengthening bilateral relations and regional development.

According to a report from The Arab Weekly, the two countries are planning a border industrial zone with a possible 50,000 jobs. It would also facilitate exports of tax-exempted Jordanian goods to the Iraqi market.

In recent weeks, the two countries have agreed a series of measures to increase cooperation between the two countries, including a plan to finalize the framework agreement for the Iraqi-Jordanian pipeline which will run from Basra through Haditha to Aqaba in the first quarter of 2019.

They have also agreed to upgrade the al-Karamah – Terbil Border Crossing.

(Sources: Govt of Iraq, The Arab Weekly)

By John Lee.

Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi and Jordan’s Prime Minister Dr. Omar Razzaz have agreed a series of measures to increase cooperation between the two countries.

Following a meeting at the weekend, they announced that, among other steps, they will finalize the framework agreement for the Iraqi-Jordanian pipeline which will run from Basra through Haditha to Aqaba in the first quarter of 2019.

The full (unedited) list of measures outlined in their joint statement is shown below:

In the transport sector:

  • Opening the Jordanian-Iraqi border crossings (Al Karama-Trebil) in front of the (door to door) traffic to start the journey of goods that are perishable on 2-2-2019 and include all types of goods thereafter.
  • Granting facilities for imported Iraqi goods via Aqaba, whose final destination is Iraq, a discount of 75% of the fees charged by Aqaba Economic Authority.
  • Make an Agreement between the Royal Jordanian and Iraqi Aviation for mutual cooperation in various fields: (Code share).
  • Training and cooperation in all areas of aviation and air transport.

In the industry and trade sector:

  • Activating the Iraqi Cabinet decision for the year 2017 exempting a number of Jordanian goods from customs starting from 2-2-2019.
  • The two councils of the two countries decided to allocate the agreed land on the Iraqi-Jordanian border to reach a depth of 2 km on the two sides of the border and a length of 6 km for the Iraqi-Jordanian Company. By 2-2-2019, in preparation for the company’s presentation of the industrial zone to the private sector for operation and management on the basis of BOT.

In the financial sector:

  • Forming a technical and financial legal committee between the two sides to develop solutions to the outstanding financial files between the two countries.

In the energy sector:

  • The agreement was reached on the Jordanian-Iraqi electricity link through the network of interconnection, where the memorandum of understanding was signed in the presence of the prime ministers, in which the parties agreed to take the necessary measures to accelerate the exchange of electrical energy between the two parties through direct electrical connection to the electricity networks of Iraq and Jordan.
  • It was agreed to finalize the framework agreement for the Iraqi-Jordanian pipeline which will extend from Basra through Haditha to Aqaba in the first quarter of 2019
  • It was agreed that the technical committees will arrive to determine the details of transportation and pricing for the export of Iraqi crude oil to Jordan before 2-2-2019.

In the agriculture sector:

  • Training in the fields of optimal use of water in the fields of aquaculture, water harvesting, seed propagation, biological control, the use of environmentally friendly pesticides and the training of Iraqi environmental police.

In the communications and IT sector:

  • It was agreed to pass the Iraqi Internet capacity from Jordan in 2019 to support Iraq build the infrastructure.
  • It was agreed on transport Jordan’s experiences in the field of the financial technology to brothers in Iraq.

(Source: Media Office of the Iraqi Prime Minister)

IOM and UNODC Sign Agreement with the Government of Jordan to Upgrade al-Karamah Border Crossing Point

In partnership with the Government of Jordan, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) signed an official partnership yesterday (10/12) to upgrade the al-Karamah border crossing point between Iraq and Jordan.

The project, funded by the European Union Instrument Contributing to Stability and Peace (EU IcSP), also contributes to the stability and economic recovery in the region.

“Iraq has always been a key economic partner for Jordan and a significant market for Jordanian exports. The closure of al-Karamah border point over the past years has had a significant negative impact on Jordan’s manufacturing sector and on the Jordanian economy in general. The government is working tirelessly to restore the economic ties with this important country for the benefit of the two sides, and we hope that the rehabilitation of al-Karamah will constitute another building block in this effort,” said Dr Maria Kawar, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation.

Al-Karamah is the only official border crossing point between Iraq and Jordan. Closed in the summer of 2015, it reopened in August 2017 raising the prospect of an improved economy among traders and consumers. Long-lasting crises in Syria and Iraq forced the closure of the land borders with both neighbors, namely the direct route between the ports of Aqaba, on the Red Sea, and Basra, on the Arabian Gulf.

Before the closure of the borders, Iraq was one of the main trade partners of Jordan. In 2013, 178,573 commercial trucks used al-Karamah to enter Iraq from Jordan, and 173,788 entered Jordan from Iraq. Border closures considerably increased the price of imports and exports.

“Border crossing points facilitate trade and exchange between people and communities. This EU-funded project will share the EU approach on integrated border management and adapt it to the situation at the Jordan/Iraq border with a view to facilitate bilateral trade and the movement of people,” said Mr Andrea Matteo Fontana, European Union Ambassador to Jordan.

The project will allow for the construction of a joint building for all departments operating at al-Karamah that will ease procedures and shorten the waiting time for passengers, allowing authorities to process a higher number of passengers per day.

The security of the passengers and the Kingdom will continue to be at the centre of the operation, with enhanced trainings on document forgery detection and other techniques related to border management.

Communities at both sides of the border will benefit from the improved border crossing point.

“I am from al-Anbar and I study pharmacy in Amman. I used to pay around 200 dollars to fly to Baghdad, and then I had to take a bus to al-Anbar from the capital. With the border post re-opened, I save money and time, and I can come home more often,” one young student told IOM staff.

“Communities in remote border regions need additional support to take advantage of the opportunities and overcome the challenges associated to a border context. The project will contribute to revitalize the economy of Mafraq and al-Anbar regions that used to rely on the livelihoods directly or indirectly created by the movements through the border post, before its closure,” said Enrico Ponziani, Chief of Mission of IOM Jordan.

The project will also improve cargo control procedures to secure and facilitate trade with the extension of the UNODC/World Customs Organization Container Control Programme at the al-Karamah border crossing point, and the establishment of a Border Control Unit.

“UNODC’s contribution to this project is two-pronged. Firstly, it aims at further securing the Al Karamah-Turaibil border crossing by strengthening the capacity of Jordanian and Iraqi law enforcement agencies to prevent trafficking of illicit goods. Secondly, it serves to facilitate trade across the border by strengthening cooperation with the private sector and streamlining cargo clearance and control processes”, said Ms. Cristina Albertin, Regional Representative of UNODC.

(Source: IOM)

By Adnan Abu Zeed for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

n an interview with Russia’s Sputnik Nov. 1, Syrian Transportation Minister Ali Hammoud said Syria is preparing to open checkpoints on its border with Iraq now that security has returned and is looking forward to working with Iraq on logistics.

The Iraqi government received a request from Syria at the end of October to send a special delegation headed by Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem to discuss reopening the border crossings. Baghdad reportedly welcomed the idea.

Click here to read the full story.

By Shelly Kittleson for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Severe dust storms have facilitated advances by the Islamic State (IS) in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border in recent days, putting the largest Iraqi city alongside it at risk.

Otherworldly shades of red, orange and sandy yellow were an intermittent backdrop for days across most of western Anbar, with very low visibility rendering airstrikes and other coalition activities against the terrorist group still in control of Hejin across the border in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor province difficult.

IS has retaken the entire Syrian side of the Baghouz area and the town of Soussa in recent days, Al-Monitor was told by security sources working near the border on Oct. 29.

Click here to read the full story.

By Fehim Tastekin for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

While Turkey was eagerly anticipating a new government in Baghdad to sort out many problems with Iraq, a last minute decision by the outgoing prime minister has added a fresh item to the list of ongoing disagreements between the two countries.

Haider al-Abadi unexpectedly signed a decree to set up three new checkpoints in government-controlled areas in northern Iraq that will effectively slash Turkey’s trade with it.

The trucks that enter the country normally pass through the sole border crossing that is controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and will now also have to pass at least one of these additional checkpoints.

Click here to read the full story.

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

By Kamal al-Ayash.

As Iraq Sanctions Iran Trade, Saudi Arabia Boosts Border Crossing

Opening the Arar border crossing on Iraq’s border with Saudi Arabia could help locals economically. But analysts say it’s also about international influence.

“Work is underway to re-open Arar for commercial purposes before the upcoming Haj season in a manner that benefits both Iraq and Saudi Arabia,” said Abdul Aziz al-Shammari, the Saudi ambassador to Iraq. In a televised interview announcing that the border crossing is to be permanently opened, he said that the Iraqi and Saudi sides have agreed on everything required for the reopening of the crossing for commercial purposes.

This is not the first time that Saudi Arabia announced its approval for the reopening of the border crossing, and with every such announcement voices supporting normal relations with Saudi Arabia are heard. Local residents also say the border crossing opening will boost economic recovery in the area.

However, the issue of ownership of the border crossing remains a significant stumbling block: It is located within the borders of the Nukhayb district, approximately 300 kilometres southwest of Ramadi, which is in the Anbar province .

The Nukhayb district was created in 1960 and remained part of Anbar province’s Rutba district until 1978 when it was annexed to Karbala for 14 months. It was returned to the Anbar province in 1979 as a result of a crisis between the local population of the Nukhayb district and Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr, a former President of Iraq, after which it became a separate district in 2016, following a vote by Anbar provincial council members.

The Arar crossing point is located on the Iraqi-Saudi border, 97 kilometres southwest of the Nukhayb district, and since 2003 has officially only opened during the pilgrimage season so that Iraqi pilgrims can travel to the holy site of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The border crossing has two routes; the first passes through the Karbala province and the second passes through the Anbar province.

The local government in the Anbar province highlights the success of its security and service operations every pilgrimage season, while at the same time stressing that this is done without financial allocations to the border crossing. It is also a way of confirming its ownership of the Nukhayb district and the Arar border crossing.

Taha Abdul Ghani, a member of the Anbar provincial council, told NIQASH that “no province other than Anbar has the right to administrate the Arar border crossing, as all documents prove that the Nukhayb district and Arar border crossing fall within the administrative borders of the Anbar province. Any other claim is a slander and a violation of Anbar’s rights.”

“Anbar province has administrated the Nukhayb sub district for 15 years. It allocated huge amounts of money to services and projects in the Nukhayb district in support of all sectors, as well as for logistical services to ensure the success of security plans and the travel of pilgrims through the Arar border crossing.”

In addition to its importance for commercial and tourism purposes, the Saudi-Iraqi border crossing is significant for various local and international political parties for political and security reasons. Observers and experts say that any developments related to the Nukhayb district tend to increase tensions and they stress that economic issues are not the only reasons.

“Controlling the Nukhayb district and the Arar border crossing from the Iraqi side has one specific reason,” retired military man, Mohammed Kartan explains. “Anbar wants to maintain the border crossing with its Sunni environment, specifically the Gulf, and Karbala and Najaf want to impose their control and influence to isolate Sunni elements from their support in the Gulf.

“Whoever controls the Jdaidet Arar border crossing and the Nukhayb district controls important transportation routes between Iraq and Syria that were created when the Islamic State group occupied most of the cities of the Anbar province. These routes were created in an attempt to find alternative ways to bring financial and logistical support to Syria without having to pass through extremist-occupied areas.”

The reopening of the border crossing could serve as an important outlet for Iraqi and Saudi trade, but it is a painful economic blow to Iranian trade, which heavily and directly depends on the Iraqi market.

Kareem al-Nouri, a leader of the popular crowd forces, told NIQASH that “if we assume good intentions on the part of Saudi Arabia, the decision to resume business permanently at the Arar border crossing is a good and useful decision which restores relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. However, we believe that the decision is of a political nature and its timing is not appropriate, especially with the US sanctions on Iran.”

“The opening of the border crossing, which is located in a sensitive and important city that is still categorised as a disputed area, could trigger a real crisis that may evolve into a conflict,” al-Nouri said. “Announcing the opening of the border crossing at this time is not a popular decision and it should be reconsidered.”