Iraq reopens al-Qaim border crossing with Syria
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Iraqi government on Monday reopened the al-Qaim border crossing with Syria, in a move seen as the latest sign of rapprochement between Baghdad and Damascus.
Al-Qaim is a border town in Iraq's western Anbar Province, located approximately 400 km (350 miles) northwest of Baghdad. It was captured by Islamic State fighters in August 2014 and was later liberated by Iraqi forces in November 2017.
Iraq's border crossing authority said in a statement that the facility was officially reopened for trade and to travelers. Reports of the reopening was confirmed last week by the head of the border crossing authority, who hoped the move would help “further develop ties between Iraq and Syria.”
The official, Kazim Mohammed al-Uqabi, told INA state media agency on Friday the facility would “be used to cross between the two countries as well as develop trade and the exchange of goods.”
“Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi has given the official authorization to reopen the border crossing.”
Iraq and Syria have three official border crossings with different names on both sides, all of which were closed in 2014. On the other side of Iraq's al-Qaim crossing is the Syrian city of Albu Kamal. Further north are the Walid/Tanaf and Rabia/Yarabiya border crossings.
Before being blocked, the al-Qaim gate was considered to be one of the main supply routes across the Middle East. According to security experts, it has also been used frequently over several years as a smuggling point for extremist organizations like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
In late August, unmanned drones outside al-Qaim, believed to have been deployed by Israel, struck vehicles of Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia group that is part of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).
The strike killed six militiamen, including a field commander, according to a military source who spoke to Kurdistan 24. A statement by the militia group claimed that only two had been killed and a third injured.
Editing by Nadia Riva