Iraq greenlights new border gate with Turkey
In Ankara yesterday, State Minister for Foreign Trade Zafer Caglayan met with Sinan Celebi, the industry and trade minister of northern Iraqi regional administration. As the first direct contact between Turkey and the regional administration, the meeting marked an important milestone in bilateral relations. Until this meeting, Turkey established its contacts with the regional administration through Iraq's central government in Baghdad. Celebi is the first high-level official from the regional administration to come to Turkey since last October, when Caglayan and Foreign Minister Davutoglu paid a historic visit to major northern Iraqi cities including Erbil. Speaking at the meeting, Caglayan said 48 already existing agreements between Turkey and Iraq to boost cooperation in such areas as education, tourism, trade and industry should be put into effect as soon as possible. Saying that Turkey's exports to Iraq stand at $5.1 billion, Caglayan said, "Last year our bilateral trade exceeded $6 billion. By 2013 we want to raise this figure to $20 billion." Turkey places great importance on Iraq's stability and territorial integrity, he said, adding that work is underway to establish a free zone on the two countries' shared border. Caglayan also said that next month he would visit Erbil, the regional administration's capital, along with a business delegation. For his part, Celebi said nearly half of the 150 foreign companies doing business in northern Iraq are Turkish. "We are two countries but one family," he said. Calling for more Turkish investments in the regional administration, Celebi said they greatly value Turkish firms operating in northern Iraq. He also pledged to step up efforts to establish a free trade zone with Turkey. Celebi also welcomed Turkey's proposal to set up a new border gate connecting Erbil to Turkey. Currently there is one Turkish-Iraqi border gate, at Habur, making it the most important trade route connecting the Middle East to Europe through Turkey. Plans for three more gates are being discussed. In related news, Caglayan said that Turkey's total exports this month so far rose 28.6 percent year-on-year. He told reporters that exports on March 1-21 totaled $6.1 billion and that exports from January 1 to March 21 were $22.2 billion, a 19.4 percent increase year-on-year. Noting that exports on March 21 alone came to $262.3 million, Caglayan said that the greatest rise in exports was in the industrial sector.