Iran, Iraq to build railroad, dredge border river

IRNA- Iran and Iraq have released a final statement in which they have agreed on no-fee visas, construction of border railway connecting the two countries, establishing joint industrial parks, oil and gas cooperation as well as dredging a border river.

“The two sides agreed that tourism, pilgrimage and commerce visas will be free of charge for the citizens of both countries starting from April first,” reads one of the points of the final statement published on Tuesday evening, seen by IRNA, following two days of intensive negotiations between a high-level Iranian delegation headed by President Hassan Rouhani.

The official communiqué also states that the Iranian and Iraqi authorities discussed and signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) on issues such as oil, trade, health and rail transit via Shalamcheh-Basra.

The railroad, some 35 kilometers long, connects the Iranian border town of Shalamcheh to the Iraqi city of Basra. The route is meant to further speed up bilateral export and import in a bid to rapidly reach the target of 20 billion dollars of annual trade volume. It could also significantly ease and facilitate tourism between the two neighbours.

Baghdad and Tehran also held talks about a draft security agreement, that “needs to be presented via diplomatic channels” in a bid to be followed up for future implementation, according to the final text of the document.

The sides stressed the importance of creating new border crossings, establishing joint industrial parks and direct transit of goods without a need to “unload on their bilateral international borders”, the final statement says.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, accompanied by a large political and economic delegation, held extensive talks with a wide range of Iraqi political actors. He, along with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi, oversaw the signing of five MoUs and several trade deals between the two states. “Iran and Iraq discussed skilled workers exchange, health, medical, pharmaceutical cooperation as well as an ease of registering pharmaceutical companies in both countries,” according to the text.

The Iraqi officials also welcomed Iranian investors and companies that want to take up projects in the country, and urged that Iran prepare the same situation for Iraqi firms that want to operate in the country.

The Arvand River, also known as Shatt al Arab in Arabic, is one of the natural frontiers that separates Iraq and Iran. It has not been dredged during the last 43 years. Now, the two sides have “decided to rapidly start joint dredging operations in Shatt al Arab in a bid to restore the thalweg in the main channel in which ships can sail.”

The two countries also stressed the importance of joint fight against terrorism in the region. The statement also thanks Iraqi authorities for clearly stating that ‘they won’t support sanctions against Iran’.