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Iraq Launches $17 Billion Project to Link Asia with Europe

Sun 28 May 2023 | 06:58 AM
Taarek Refaat

Iraq launched today, Saturday, a project worth $17 billion to link an important port for goods on its southern coast with the border with Turkey by extending a network of railways and roads, in a move aimed at transforming the country's economy after decades of wars and crises.

The development road aims to link the oil-rich port of Faw in southern Iraq with Turkey, turning the country into a transit hub by shortening travel time between Asia and Europe.

On Saturday, the Prime Minister, Muhammad Shia'a Al-Sudani, affirmed that economic integration with Arab countries enhances stability, pointing to the launch of a regional project for transportation through its lands, which includes the "Great Al-Faw" port.

During his speech at the opening of the Development Road Conference, Al-Sudani mentioned that the development route is an economic artery and a promising opportunity for a meeting of interests, history and cultures.

Al-Sudani said, "The obstacles become easy in front of cooperation," pointing out that "the development route is an ambitious and deliberate plan to change reality towards a mature economic structure," according to what was reported by the Iraqi News Agency, "INA."

And he continued, "We stand on the cusp of the key to facing the influences that will pass through the path of development," noting that "this government has committed itself to starting from the actual needs of the Iraqi people according to studied priorities."

The Prime Minister indicated that the launch of a transport project across Iraq would be a "pillar" for a sustainable non-oil economy and a "connection node serving" Iraq's neighbors and the region.

Al-Sudani said that the project will depend on intermodal corridors and more than 1,200 km of railways, their joint interoperability, and highways.

Al-Sudani stated that the great port of Faw will be "a gateway to this important economic movement."

On his part, Iraqi Transport Minister Razzaq Al-Saadawi said that his country intends to operate the first phase of the Al-Faw port project in mid-2025.

During the conference, the minister added, "The achievement rates achieved in the port of Faw amounted to more than 50%."

The cost of the Al-Faw port project is about $2.6 billion, and it aims to establish a large commercial port in southern Iraq. It has been postponed more than once.

In addition, the general manager of the General Company for Iraqi Ports, Farhan Al-Fartousi, told Reuters: "Do not imagine that the development road is a road only for the passage of goods or travelers. No, this road will be an opening for the doors of development in vast areas in Iraq."

The Iraqi government envisages high-speed trains transporting goods and passengers at speeds of up to 300 kilometers per hour, in addition to extending lines to local industry and energy centers, which could include oil and gas pipelines.

Iraq's train service currently operates a handful of lines, including slow oil freighters and a single overnight passenger train from Baghdad to Basra that takes 10 to 12 hours on a 500 km journey.

Al-Fatousi also said that the Faw Grand Port project, which was planned for more than a decade, is halfway to completion.

Passenger transportation between Iraq and Europe goes back to major plans drawn up at the beginning of the 20th cent. to launch a fast line from Baghdad to Berlin.

Al-Fartousi said, "The old road, Basra-Baghdad-Berlin, which used to transport the Iraqi tourist from Basra and from Baghdad, Iraq, towards Europe, we will find this road again effective. Those who like to visit the holy shrines in Iraq or go to the Mekkah to perform Hajj or Umrah.