Ankara and Baghdad have agreed to move forward with a 2009 plan to open two new border gates and are preparing to commence construction soon, Customs and Trade Minister Hayati Yazıcı told the press in Ankara on Thursday, Today's Zaman reported.
The issue of opening new border gates with Iraq has been on the agenda for more than a decade now. Neither side, however, has made any progress on the issue due to ups and downs in relations between the two neighboring countries. Ankara and Baghdad signed a deal to open two new border gates in Ovaköy and Aktepe in 2009. Yazıcı's comments confirm the location of the two border gates as agreed in 2009.
"We are expecting to finalize details on the issue, meeting with the Iraqi central government in December. A final agreement could be signed before the end of this year," Yazıcı told Thursday's press conference.
A recent thaw in relations with Baghdad has strengthened Ankara's hand to push further to boost trade with Iraq, particularly the oil-rich Kurdish-controlled north. Hundreds of trucks and visitors cross the border on a daily basis from the Kurdish region to Turkey.
On a recent visit to Baghdad, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said both countries are dedicated to opening more border gates between Turkey and Iraq and increasing the number of flights between the two countries.
The Kurdish region has also requested that a third bridge crossing the Tigris River be built at the Habur border gate with six lanes in each direction. The gate has two three-lane bridges one for each direction and can handle up to 3,500 trucks daily. Yazıcı said Ankara agreed to build this third bridge as well.
The expected trade volume between Turkey and the Kurdish region this year is more than $12 billion. The volume of trade between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan could double if border crossings are increased, observers claim.