ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A Kurdish official told Kurdistan 24 that construction on the road leading to a future border crossing between the Kurdistan Region and Turkey has reached its finals stages, with just two out of its 13-kilometer total length left to complete.
The Zete border crossing will be the third official one located between Iraq and its northern neighbor and the first between the provinces of Erbil and Hakkari (Colemerg).
The Kurdistan Region side of the gate is located in the town of Mergasor and is expected to foster trade and tourism between the semi-autonomous region and Turkey.
“We are starting the second phase of planning which is establishing a border crossing administration with KRG’s Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Finance and Economy, and related stakeholders,” Mergasor Mayor Ghafour Mala-Swar told Kurdistan 24.
With preparation reportedly finalized on the Turkish side, officials from both the Turkish and Iraqi side of the border are to meet at the site of the future border crossing next week once construction of the road there is completed.
“Eleven kilometers of construction of the highway is already finished with only two kilometers remaining,” said Sarbast Omer, who supervises construction on the Kurdistan Region side.
The federal government of Iraq has no direct border crossings with Turkey outside of the Kurdistan Region. However, since the 2017 independence referendum and Baghdad's harsh response to it which included closing the Kurdistan Region's airports and borders, the Iraqi Interior Ministry has established primary control over the region's border security and customs enforcement.
The Kurdistan Region and Turkey currently share two international border gates in Duhok Province, known as Ibrahim Khalil International and Sarzeri. While Sarzeri is reserved for tourists, the new Zete border crossing, along with Ibrahim Khalil, will be used for both tourism and trade.
In addition to the economic boost it is likely to bring to the provinces of Erbil, Sulaimani, and Halabja, it will also cut significant time and effort for those traveling between the eastern part of the Kurdistan Region and Turkey.
The decision to open a third border crossing came in 2014 with an agreement between the Kurdistan Region and Turkey, but the emergence of the Islamic State followed by a widespread economic crisis delayed the project.
Editing by John J. Catherine