Iran, Iraq closing in on deal to build first cross-border railway
Iraq is nearing completion of a deal with Iran to connect the southern port city of Basra with the nearby border town of Shalamjah by rail, according to a statement by the office of Baghdad’s premier.
The railway system, which has reportedly been finished on the Iranian side, will offer Tehran a new link to close ally Syria and the wider Mediterranean.
“Negotiations with Iran to build a railway system between Basra and Shalamjah has reached its final stages,” the media office of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi said in a tweet.
The entire project is being overseen by Iran’s Mostafzan Foundation, a government-linked charity specialising in the construction sector. Last month, Baghdad’s top ministers approved funding for the project, said to measure some 30 kilometres and costing around $150 million.
رئيس مجلس الوزراء @MAKadhimi : لقد وصلت المفاوضات مع إيران لبناء خطِ سكٍة حديد بين البصـرة والشلامجة مراحلها النهائية، ووقعنا خمس عشـرة اتفاقيةٍ ومذكرةِ تفاهمٍ مع الأردن ومصـرَ حول الطاقةِ وخطوطِ النقل،— المكتب الإعلامي لرئيس الوزراء 🇮🇶 (@IraqiPMO) May 13, 2021
The rail connection between the neighbours was first proposed by Iran in 2018. Last week, President Hassan Rouhani hailed the development as a "big change", describing the connection to Iraq, Syria and the Mediterranean as “very important”.
Baghdad’s and Tehran’s transport ministers in March lauded its potential to strengthen trade relations.
Iraq Masjidi, Tehran’s ambassador to Baghdad, has suggested that the rail line could make Iraq a regional transport hub, through connecting China’s Belt and Road lines to Iraq, IRNA reported.