Iraq, Syria open major border crossing - GulfToday

Iraq, Syria open major border crossing


Iraq and Syria border guards congratulate each other during the opening ceremony of the crossing in Anbar province on Monday. Associated Press

A border crossing on a vital highway linking the capitals of Iraq and Syria, seized by Daesh in 2014, re-opened on Monday, a reporter said.

Iraqi security forces had re-taken the border post near the town of Al Qaim in late 2017 as part of a massive operation backed by an international coalition against the jihadists’ self-proclaimed “caliphate.”

On Monday, a video journalist saw trucks hauling cargo across the terminal, which lies on a major highway connecting Baghdad and Damascus.

Close to the Euphrates river in Iraq’s restive Anbar province, Al Qaim faces Albu Kamal in Syria’s vast eastern region of Deir Ezzor.

It is the only crossing between the two countries controlled by Syrian regime forces on one side and Iraqi federal authorities on the other.

Another crossing was destroyed in fighting, while the rest are controlled by Kurdish forces which have a degree of autonomy in both countries.

The roughly 600-kilometre frontier runs through both desert and mountains, making it extremely difficult to control.

Daesh launched a shock offensive in the summer of 2014, capturing swathes of Syria and northern Iraq and imposing a brutal version of Islamic rule.

Iraqi forces backed by the Hashed Al Shaabi paramilitary alliance and the anti-Daesh coalition waged a months-long campaign to reassert control, declaring victory over the extremists in late 2017.

It’s also a boost to Iran’s influence in the region, allowing Iran-backed militias in Iraq easier access to eastern Syria amid soaring tensions in the region between Iran and the US The opening of the crossing was postponed several times in recent weeks.

Qaim and Boukamal were controlled by the Daesh until 2017, when Syrian and Iraqi troops captured the towns from the extremist. The group’s territorial defeat was announced in Syria earlier this year.

Some 800 freight trucks are expected to cross from Syria once the crossing has been opened, Syria’s state news agency said.

Qaim was once a thriving stopover on the highway linking Damascus and Baghdad. Long before a hard border materialised in the latter half of the 20th century, tribes sent their grooms and brides across the frontier to marry, extending the branches of their families on both sides.


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