Iraq announces plans for $17 billion transportation project linking Asia to Europe

IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — Iraq’s prime minister on Saturday announced plans for a $17 billion regional transportation project to ease the flow of goods from Asia to Europe.

The announcement was made at a one-day conference in Baghdad that brought together transport ministers and representatives from Iraq, Gulf countries, Turkey, Iran, Syria and Jordan.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said the planned development road project would facilitate the movement of goods from the Gulf to Europe through the port of Grand Faw in Basra, southern Iraq, which would be connected to Turkey, then to Europe, via a network of railways and motorways.

A centerpiece of the project will be the development of the port of Grand Faw and an adjacent “smart industrial city”, al-Sudani said.

The planned project, which would involve the construction of approximately 1,200 km (about 745 miles) of railways and highways, will be “an economic lifeline and a promising opportunity for the convergence of interests, history and cultures,” al-Sudani said, adding it “will make our countries a source of modern industries and goods.”

He did not specify how the project would be funded, but noted that Iraq “would rely heavily on cooperation…with sister and friendly nations.”

Countries attending Saturday’s conference agreed to establish joint technical committees to move the project forward.

Iraq’s relations with Gulf countries have been strained in recent decades as Iranian-backed militias have risen to prominence in Iraq following the US-led invasion who overthrew Saddam Hussein and created a power vacuum in the country.

However, there have been signs of improving relations with the country’s neighbours. In January, Iraq hosted the eight-nation Arabian Gulf Cup in Basra, the first international football tournament the country has hosted in more than four decades.

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