Iraq's $17 billion road-rail project will bridge Asia and Europe

The first phase of constructing the 746-mile-long railway and roadway will last five years.
Sejal Sharma
Prime Minister of Iraq Mohammed Shia al-Sudani
Prime Minister of Iraq Mohammed Shia al-Sudani

Wikimedia Commons 

In a move to reform Iraq, which has been marred by war and invasion for decades, Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani announced Saturday a project dubbed ‘Development Road,’ which will connect Asia to Europe via a 1,200-km (approximately 746 miles) long rail line as well as a parallel motorway.

The project will cost approximately $17 billion; the first phase will span five years.

Al-Sudani said the project would provide an "economic artery and a promising opportunity to bring interests, history and cultures together to make our region a destination for anyone seeking successful investment," as quoted in a report by The National News.

The transportation line, which aims to turn Iraq into a transit hub nestled between Europe and Asia, will start from the Southern Grand Faw Port and pass through several Iraqi regions, finally ending at the Turkish border. This will facilitate a smooth flow of goods and give Iraq access to Istanbul and the Turkish port of Mersin.

The centerpiece of the project will be the Grand Faw Port and a ‘smart industrial city’

The Grand Faw Port in the Basra province is halfway to completion and has made significant progress. Additionally, a state-of-the-art smart industrial city is being built next to the port in a bid to propel further technological and infrastructural development in the near future.

The project will be “an economic lifeline and a promising opportunity for the convergence of interests, history, and cultures,” said al-Sudani, adding it will “make our countries a source for modern industries and goods,” as per a report by The Associated Press.

The Prime Minister was speaking in Baghdad at a one-day conference that saw the attendance of transport ministers and representatives from Iraq, the Gulf countries, Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Jordan.

While al-Sudani did not say how the project would be financed, as per online reports from earlier this year, Iraq officials said the rail project would be awarded to Alstom, a French transport giant. Al-Sudani concluded that Iraq would “rely heavily on cooperation... with brotherly and friendly nations.”

The multi-billion dollar project is being viewed as an attempt by Iraq to address the economic, infrastructural, developmental, and social challenges it currently faces, owing to the consequences of invasions led by the U.S. in 2003. After two decades of devastation in the war-torn country, Iraq’s call for international cooperation and assistance is being seen as an extension of a diplomatic olive branch.

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