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Iran, Iraq break ground on construction of cross-border railway

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)
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia' al-Sudani (R) and Iran's First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber lay the foundation stone for the cross-border Shalamcheh-Basra railway project on September 2, 2023. (Photo by IRNA)

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani and Iran’s First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber have laid the foundation stone for the cross-border railway line connecting the two neighboring countries. 

According to a Saturday report published by Iran’s official IRNA news agency, Sudani and Mokhber met at the common border and participated in the inauguration ceremony of the construction operation of the project.

The Iraqi prime minister, together with Iranian Ambassador to Baghdad Mohammad Kazem Al Sadeq, had departed Basra International Airport in southern Iraq on board a helicopter, to attend the event.

Bassem Awadi, the spokesman for the Iraqi government, said the steps stipulated in Resolution 23333 of the Council of Ministers concerning the implementation of the railway project linking Iraq’s Basra with the Iranian border town of Shalamcheh have already been taken, and today the executive phase of the project will commence.

He said the cross-border railway project serves as an introduction to strategic transportation projects that would connect Iraq and neighboring countries, adding that the Baghdad government had been debating on and revising the project for many years.

Awadi further described the railway connection as one of the most important transportation projects in the region, saying, “This project also effectively helps in the transfer of tourists and pilgrims between Central Asian countries and Iraq.”

Earlier, Mokhber said the Shalamcheh-Basra railway project will become operational within the next two years with the cooperation of Iran and Iraq, expressing hope that the project would be a source of blessing for the two neighboring countries.

He emphasized that the strategic project can bring about a major change in the West Asia region.

In addition to connecting the railways of the two countries, it would also act as complementary to the international transport routes, Iran’s first vice president pointed out.

All regional and extra-regional countries need two North-South and East-West transport corridors, he said, adding that this project is one of the cases that has been on the agenda of the Iranian and Iraqi governments for a long time.

The Shalamcheh-Basra railway, which will be 32 kilometers (19.8 miles) long, will connect Iran to the Mediterranean (Jordan and Syria), Mokhber noted.

Iran and Iraq signed an agreement for the construction of the Shalamcheh-Basra railway in 2021 after being in the pipeline for many years. Prior to this, plans were shelved in 2014, the same year that Daesh Takfiri terrorists overran large swathes of land in northern Iraq and eastern Syria.

After repeated delays, efforts were revived in April with Baghdad and Tehran agreeing to implement the railway link during a meeting between Iraqi Minister of Transport Razzaq Mohibis al-Saadawi and the Iranian Minister of Roads and Housing Mehrdad Bazrpash in the Iranian capital.

The railway project will reportedly become operational within the next 18 months.

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