Iraq shuns, Egypt open to Turkey’s route offers

Iraq shuns, Egypt open to Turkey’s route offers

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Iraq shuns, Egypt open to Turkey’s route offers

Economy Minister Çağlayan (inset, right,) inks a deal on Ro-Ro transport with Egyptian Transportation Minister Galal Said (left). The line is set to start operating this week. AA photo

Iraq has failed to respond to a Turkish request to determine a safe route for Turkish trucks seeking to avoid Syria as they transport goods to the Gulf, amid rising tensions between Ankara and Baghdad.

“We have tried to find an alternative route to Syria by coordinating with Iraq and Jordan. Iraq has failed to answer either positively or negatively to our requests. I made several phone calls. I think our Iraqi friends are very busy these days. I do not want to think of any other reason,” Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan told reporters yesterday.

Ankara had asked Baghdad to help it determine a route with special security measures that would allow truckers to travel safely from Turkey via Iraq to Jordan. Once-flourishing relations, however, have been marred recently by harsh exchanges between the two countries amid a political crisis in Baghdad that prompted Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi to flee the capital to escape trial on terrorism charges. Al-Hashemi is currently staying in Turkey.

Ro-ro link with Egypt

In an another effort to overcome the transportation problems sparked by the Syrian turmoil, Çağlayan yesterday held talks with Egyptian Transportation Minister Galal Said, after which the two officials signed a memorandum of understanding on transport cooperation that involves the inauguration of a Ro-Ro ferry link from the southern province of Mersin to Alexandria.

Çağlayan said the first Ro-Ro ferry would depart on April 26 and that he would go to Mersin for the occasion.

The Ro-Ro transportation will be carried out by the private sector, while the government will provide support, the minister said without elaborating.

“The project will decrease the losses of the logistics sector in Mersin, Hatay, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa and Mardin due to the unfair practices of Syria,” he said, referring to the heavy levies that Damascus has slapped on Turkish goods amid the deterioration in bilateral ties.

Ferries leaving Turkey will first go to Alexandria and Port Said from which the trucks will cross the country by land to reach the Red Sea harbors of Safaga and Adabiya.

Extra costs

Asked about the cost difference between carrying goods through Syria and via Ro-Ro ships, Çağlayan said the Ro-Ro link would result in $1,000 in extra costs per shipment. “We will take necessary measures to support transporters.”

Çağlayan noted the importance of the agreement by indicating the increasing trade volume with Egypt.

“The trade volume between the two countries has increased eight times in the last 10 years and exceeded $4 billion in 2011. We believe that this year our trade volume will be close to $5 billion. More than 200 Turkish companies have investments in Egypt worth more than $1.5 billion.”

Çağlayan also said Turkey was planning to set up logistics hubs in Turkey, Russia, the United States and Romania.
Said said his country was passing through a great revolution and that a process of normalization was continuing, while expressing his pleasure at cooperating with an important country like Turkey in the region.

“Our cooperation will continue to further increase the trade volume,” Said said, adding that the Ro-Ro project would boost the influence of both countries in the Middle East.