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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 April 2019

Iraq expected to open strategic border with Syria within days

The crossing was closed in 2013 to prevent the movement of Al Qaeda

Syrian President Bashar Al Assad (C) meeting with a joint Iraqi-Iranian military delegations in Damascus, Syria, 18 March 2019. EPA
Syrian President Bashar Al Assad (C) meeting with a joint Iraqi-Iranian military delegations in Damascus, Syria, 18 March 2019. EPA

Iraq’s military chief said on Tuesday that the country plans to reopen a strategic border crossing with Syria in the coming days.

Lt Gen, Othamn Al Ghanimi, made the announcement during a rare meeting with his Syrian and Iranian counterparts in Damascus, triggering concerns in Washington of Iran’s growing influence in the region, according to observers.

"God willing the coming days will witness the opening of the border crossing and the continuation of visits and trade between the two countries," Lt Gen Al Ghanimi said during a press conference.

Al Qaim border was closed in 2013 to support Iraqi security forces in combating Al Qaeda fighters and later ISIS.

The tripartite meeting in Damascus focused “on countering terrorism and sustaining stability in the region” according to Iraq’s defence ministry.

Baghdad has maintained close relations with Syria throughout a civil war that killed an estimated 400,000 people in its first six years. The death toll could is likely to grow as the war continues.

The border crossing is expected to increase the flow of goods from Iran to Syria.

Washington has expressed concern about Tehran’s ambitions to extend its weapons and military support to regional allies.

“I think what Iran would ultimately like to see happen is Iraq turn into a province of Iran so that they can create a military highway across the northern Middle East that the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps can use to ferry missiles and weapons,” the US Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook said last week.

The US has continuously stressed that it wants to contain Tehran’s “destabilising influence” in the region, including in Iraq and Syria.

Iran has been one of the most dedicated supporters of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad during the uprising against his regime that began in 2011, and is also a close ally of Iraq.

Updated: March 19, 2019 08:01 PM

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