The only border point for Iraq and Jordan had been closed since the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) group took control of the area in 2014. The hoped-for return of commercial traffic will be important for both economies.
At a re-opening ceremony at the border crossing on Wednesday, Jordanian Interior Minister Ghaleb Zohbi stood with his Iraqi counterpart, Qassem al-Araji, saying security had been restored three years after the IS group seized control of the frontier areas. An official statement from the two governments said the border point had been secured “against attacks by criminal gangs.”
“The opening of the crossing is of great importance to Jordan and Iraq,” Zohbi said earlier. “It’s a crucial artery. Jordan and Iraq have been discussing reopening it for a while.”
Iraq was once Jordan’s main export market, taking 20 percent of its domestic exports. Until 2014, Jordan was also the gateway for car exports to Iraq.
Securing the highway
The governor of Anbar province, Mohammed al-Halboosi, said trucks should be able to start crossing Thursday, and that Iraqi forces were protecting the road to Baghdad. He admitted an agreement with a private international security firm, Olive Group, on securing and upgrading the road was still to be completed.
Officials said customs and border arrangements have been agreed together with security measures for the 550 kilometers (342 miles) of highway to the Iraqi capital, reportedly with the US security company employing a local force, according to Reuters.
Known as Karameh in Jordan and Turabil in Iraq, it is the only border crossing on the 180-kilometer border between northeast Jordan and western Iraq.
Over the last year, the Iraqi army has regained control of most of the towns in the desert province of Anbar. IS fighters are still in control of the towns of Rawa, Aanah and Al-Qaim, more than 200 kilometers north of Karameh-Turabil.
Over the last three years, Jordan’s exports to Iraq have dropped by more than two-thirds from a pre-2014 level of $1.4 billion (1.17 billion euros) a year.
Efforts have also been made to secure Iraq’s Basra port in the south to Jordan. The Red Sea port of Aqaba is a gateway for Iraqi imports from Europe.
Jordan is also hopeful its northern border with Syria will re-open in the coming months.
jm/kms (Reuters, AP, AFP)