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Iran, Iraq sign final agreement on cross-border railway: Minister

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Photo published in the Iranian media on December 27, 2021 shows Iraqi President Barham Salih in a meeting with Iran’s transportation minister Rostam Qassemi in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

Iran and Iraq have signed a final and binding agreement on how they will jointly contribute to the construction of a stretch of railway that connects Iranian rail network to the Mediterranean coast in Syria.

Iran’s transportation minister Rostam Qassemi said on Monday that he had inked the agreement on Shalamcheh-Basra railway during his meetings earlier in the day with senior Iraqi officials in the capital Baghdad.

Qassemi said the contract sets a clear timetable on how a joint Iranian-Iraqi company will start construction works on the 32-kilometer railway that will stretch from the Iranian border to the oil-rich city of Basra in southern Iraq.

“This agreement has a clear timetable and one of its articles stipulates that execution phase will practically start within a month,” the minister was quoted as saying by the Iranian media.

The signing of the contract came days after Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein gave assurances to Iranian authorities during a trip to Tehran that all hurdles halting the project will be removed soon.

Iran and Iraq have had previous agreements on the Shalamcheh-Basra railway but construction had stalled mainly because of land ownership issues on the Iraqi territory.

Iran has been waiting for years for Iraq’s approval to extend rail lines that have reached the border post of Shalamcheh to Basra to facilitate freight transportation through a railway that can reach Mediterranean coasts in Syria.

Qassemi said that the Iranian and Iraqi railway authorities will set up a joint company within two months to start the project.

He said that the contract on the railway was signed following a key meeting between him and the Iraqi President Barham Salih earlier on Monday in Baghdad.

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