A project to connect Iraq to Türkiye with railways, roads, ports and cities, gained attention during a visit to Iraq by Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the G20 Summit in New Delhi last week.
Iraq aims to shorten the travel time between Asia and Europe through Türkiye with the Great Faw Port -- the first phase of the Development Road Project when it becomes a transit hub.
With The Iraqi Silk Road, an alternative route to the Suez Canal is being created to facilitate faster and more efficient trade.
That 745-mile (1,200-kilometer) railway and highways will connect the Great Faw Port, aimed to be the largest port in the Middle East. It is planned to be completed by 2025 to the Turkish border at an expected cost of $17 billion.
Initially named the Dry Canal but renamed as the Development Road Project during a meeting between Erdogan and Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia' Al Sudani in March, it is considered the foundation of a non-oil sustainable economy.
Speaking at the Development Road Conference held in Baghdad on May 27 by the Iraqi government with the participation of neighboring countries including Türkiye and representatives from the Gulf region, Sudani said the project would change reality in terms of employment, financial leverage and increase the value of the gross domestic product (GDP).
Iraqi businessmen and decision-makers have shared their views with Anadolu on the project, which is planned to be completed in three stages by 2028, 2033and 2050 and will open Iraq to the world through Türkiye.
‘Türkiye is important strategic partner in Iraq's development’
The project, with its endpoint in Türkiye, will have a wide-ranging effect from Europe to Gulf countries.
Sudani praised Turkish companies for their roles in Iraq's infrastructure projects and noted that Turkish companies have the potential to contribute to the development of the Development Road Project.
Nasir al-Asadi, an advisor responsible for transportation in Sudan, told the state-run Al-Sabah newspaper in Iraq that agreements related to the Development Road Project would be soon signed between Türkiye and Iraq.
Businesspeople are in favor of Türkiye taking a more active role in the project. When one considers the trade volume between Türkiye and Iraq has exceeded $24 billion, the potential for business opportunities the project will offer is hopeful.
"The most important strategic partner in the Development Road Project is our neighboring country, Türkiye. Türkiye is also an important strategic partner in Iraq's development," President of the Baghdad Chamber of Commerce, Firas al-Hamdani, told Anadolu.
Hamdani, who said the project would benefit Iraq, Türkiye and countries with commercial relations, said: "When this project, which will contribute to Iraq's development, is implemented, Türkiye’s real presence in this field will be a reality.
“Türkiye has a promising market, and the Iraqi government and Iraqi businessmen can benefit from Türkiye's experience in this project."
Hasan al-Sabari, a member of the Iraqi Parliament's Economic and Investment Committee, emphasized that Türkiye is an “important strategic partner for Iraq.”
"We have a long border partnership with Türkiye, and we have a deep history and even a blood bond," he said.
Türkiye pledged $5 billion in credit for Iraq's reconstruction
Construction at the first stage of the Development Road Project -- the Great Faw Port in Basra -- continues without slowing down. The port is located at the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab, where the Euphrates and Tigris rivers meet before flowing into the sea.
The project, which includes railway and road lines that will extend from the port to the Turkish border by passing through Diwaniyah, Najaf, Karbala, Baghdad and Mosul, is expected to provide access to the Mersin Port from the Turkish border.
The project, whose design is carried out by the Italian company PEG Infrastructure, is planned to enter Türkiye through Ovakoy after Mosul.
Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq after Baghdad, has a long history of relations with Türkiye in terms of humanity, history, geography and economics.
In 2018, Türkiye became the country that made the largest commitment with a $5 billion credit pledge for Iraq's reconstruction and stability at a conference in Kuwait.
Deputy Gov. of Mosul, Rifat Semmo, said the train line to be built within the scope of the project would be approximately 8 kilometers (5 miles) from the city center of Mosul.
"Turkish companies were preferred over other foreign companies in investment and infrastructure works in Mosul. Turkish companies are among the best foreign companies operating in Iraq,” he said.
Semmo noted that Turkish companies played a significant role in the construction of Mosul Airport, roads and bridges in the city.
"Turkish companies have a lion's share in Mosul. When the city was liberated, especially after the liberation of Mosul, Turkish companies left an important mark in the city," he said.
Semmo said Iraq expects Türkiye’s contribution to the Development Road Project.
"Iraqi companies cannot manage this tremendous project alone. Iraq needs foreign companies in this project, and neighboring Türkiye is the closest country to Mosul. We need Turkish companies. Türkiye's participation with giant and high-quality companies in the Development Road Project will be important for Iraq, and Turkish companies will leave a new mark in the field of quality work," he added.
UAE, Qatar also involved
The Great Faw Port with 90 berths is expected to surpass the 67-berth Jebel Ali, known as the largest container port in the Middle East. It is expected to be completed in 2025.
The Development Road Project, which will reach the Turkish border from the port, is one of the alternative options in case of possible conflicts and wars, as China's Silk Road does not pass directly through Iraq.
The project is expected to save time and cost by shortening the distance between China and Europe compared to the sea route passing through the Suez Canal.
But the project, which aims to establish a new Silk Road between Türkiye and Iraq, has a huge cost that the Iraqi government cannot undertake alone.
For this reason, Türkiye, Gulf countries and China are expected to contribute to the financing and completion of the project.
Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said Sept. 13 that Iraq, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Türkiye and Qatar were in intensive negotiations regarding the Development Road Project.
Fidan noted the project came to the agenda during meetings President Erdogan attended at the G20 Summit, especially in a meeting with UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and said they agreed on the rapid implementation of the project.
Songul Cabuk, former member of the Iraqi parliament and a businesswoman, said Iraq is at the center of the Silk Road route due to its location.
"Türkiye is serious about bringing European countries together with Asian countries through Iraq. Iraq can provide transportation to Asia, the Gulf, and even Europe through this project," she said.
*Writing by Alperen Aktas
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