Adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of Transport Karim al-Nouri ruled out the possibility of a railway that connects the Arab countries, with the Gulf in particular. This is despite the fact that his ministry reached an agreement with a French company to complete the railway project within Iraq. The company will also link the Iraq railway to the Turkish network that Ankara has pledged to connect to European lines.
He explained in an interview to Al-Hayat that the Basra-Berlin rail line project, formally known as the “Baghdad-Berlin rail line,” is massive and very old, and it is as important as Egypt’s Suez Canal. He said it will be completed in two stages. Constructing the railway within Iraq is the first stage, and this has already been completed.
He noted that a railway with Arab countries, and the Gulf in particular, will lead to linking the ports of the Persian Gulf and Europe. This is what Europe wants, but such a project requires a long time to be completed.
Concerning the rail line with Iran, Nouri emphasized that it has reached its final stages. An agreement had earlier been reached between the two sides, and Basra will be linked to Shalamjeh. However, he added that this rail line will be dedicated to the transfer of passengers. In other words, it is not for the transfer of goods, and visitors will be able to take the train from Tehran and Qom to Najaf and Karbala. Once this stage is complete, an agreement on the trade link will be reached.
He noted that a number of meetings were held on the sidelines of the 26th session of the General Assembly of the Arab Union for Land Transport, which concluded a week ago [May 22] in Baghdad. During these sideline meetings, member States agreed to establish an Arab Council for Land Transport that will be based in Baghdad.
He explained that a meeting held between Lebanon and Iraq was concluded with a Lebanese initiative to lift all fees on Iraqi transportation, while extensively activating the use of Lebanese ports.
It should be noted that on January 21, Baghdad hosted the General Assembly for the Arab Union of Land Transport, and Iraq’s transport minister, Hadi al-Amiri, was chosen to head the Assembly’s new round.
Amiri said during the meetings that one of the most important economic factors that has managed to unite Europe is the railway. Therefore, the thought of linking Arab states through both a railway and a network of land roads should be seriously taken into consideration.
Promoting Joint Transport
Mahmoud Al-Lat, the Secretary-General of the Union, said that the importance of the transport sector lies in the promotion of joint transport and the activation of agreements between the Arab countries. Former Iraqi transport minister Amer Abdul-Jabbar Ismail told Al-Hayat that he submitted to the President of the Assembly several proposals that are related to Arab integration in the transport sector. He also showed these proposals to representatives of 14 Arab countries, as well as to the ambassadors of the UAE and Yemen.
He also put forward the idea of forming coalitions between Arab public transport companies and Iraqi companies from both public and private sectors, based on the joint operating system. This would be done in a way that helps reduce transportation costs, which would in turn lead to a decline in the price of goods for Arab consumers.
He called for establishing facilities at Arab ports, based on reciprocity, in order to reduce the routine procedures and to unify the customs tariff.