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Joint Syria-Iraq border crossing to re-open soon: officials

Pro-regime forces patrolling the Albu Kamal border town [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 October, 2018

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Both Iraq and Syria's foreign ministers made the announcement in Damascus on Monday, hours after Syria reopened crossings with Jordan and Israel.
Top diplomats from Syria and Iraq said a border crossing between the two countries would re-open soon, an announcement that comes hours after crossings between Syria and Jordan as well as Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan re-opened on Monday. 

"We are now looking at the interest of the Syrian and Iraqi people in opening up the Albu Kamal crossing... as soon as possible," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said at a press conference in Damascus.

Albu Kamal is the only one of three crossings on the Iraqi border in Syria's far east controlled by regime forces on the Syrian side. 

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Jaafari added that the opening of the crossing, known as Al-Qaim in Iraq, was "imminent".

After Syria's war broke out, rebels and then jihadists from Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate took over the Albu Kamal frontier post.

In 2014, the Islamic State group seized control of the crossing as it swept across large parts of Syria and Iraq, declaring a so-called "caliphate" in areas it controlled.

The two other border crossings between Syria and Iraq escape regime control.

To the north, Yaarubiya, also known as Rabia on the Iraqi side, in the northeastern province of Hasakeh is held by Kurdish forces.

And to the south, Al-Tanaf, named Al-Waleed by the Iraqis, is held by the US-led coalition and rebel factions it supports.

Iraq recently redeployed its forces on the border with Syria in a bid to stem the flow of weapons and IS fighters.

Today, the jihadists have lost much of their territory to various offensives in both countries but still retain a presence in the desert near the frontier.

Both the Syrian regime and Iraq have coordinated their efforts in fighting IS, and Iraqi planes have carried out air strikes against the jihadists in coordination with Damascus.

After seven years of civil war, Syria's regime has recaptured large parts of the country with Russian backing.

About half of Syria's 19 crossing points with its neighbours, including Lebanon and Turkey, are now controlled by the regime.

The Syrian war began in 2011 when Assad deployed military forces against peaceful protesters demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria. 

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