Turkey-Iraq agree for second border gate to bypass Kurdish region
In a visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to Ankara on Oct. 25, the two countries agreed to operate alternative border crossings and for Baghdad to gain control of the current Habur border gate from the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said on Oct. 26 that in their meeting with al-Abadi, Turkey has given full support of the Iraqi leader’s demand for central control of Iraq’s border crossings to Turkey, including the opening of a new one at Faysh-Habur, inside the autonomous Kurdish region.
“According to the Iraqi constitution, control of the border gates are by the central government. In this perspective, the Iraqi government has started work to gain control of airports and border gates from the Iraqi regional government. On this issue, we are supporting the Iraqi government every way we can in its demand,” Yıldırım said.
“Hence, we are working together [with the central government of Iraq] on transferring control of the Habur border gate, our main border crossing to Iraq, to the central government of Iraq,” Yıldırım said.
“Apart from this, we have spoken on the subject of opening a new route from the Faysh-Habur region, a bit west from Habur. Iraqi counterparts have responded positively. And we will work on opening this gate, we have decided on this,” Yıldırım said.
A second border crossing from Ovaköy into Iraq can be opened, but security should be maintained by Iraq or Turkey, Customs Minister Bülent Tüfenkçi told Anadolu Agency.
The KRG had taken advantage of the extra revenue from the single border gate from Turkey to Iraq, the minister said.
“We are waiting for Iraq to take steps in order to regain control of the border gates,” he said.
In a meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister in Ankara, the minister said they have discussed operating the Ovaköy border gate whose legal infrastructure is established, but are “waiting for a step to be taken by the Iraqi side.”
“We have reached a consensus with the central Iraqi government to open a second border gate. We could not open it due to problems between the central government and the northern Iraqi administration. We have seen that the central government is disposed to do it. But we need to maintain road security,” said Tüfenkçi.
The PYD/PKK (Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party/Kurdistan Workers’ Party) or ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) may pose a threat to road security, said the minister.
“Either Iraq or Turkey may have to provide security,” he said.
The Habur border gate, through which 1.6 million vehicles pass annually, has not been able to meet the demands for trade between Iraq and Turkey, and Ankara and Baghdad are discussing opening alternative gates for more than a decade, including in Ovaköy, but parties have yet to take any steps.