Iraq’s prime minister inaugurated construction work on the Iraq-Iran rail link. It would become the first railway line linking the country to neighbouring Iran, an important political and economic partner.
The “Basra-Chalamja connection project” will link the main port city of Basra in southern Iraq to the vast Iranian rail network via the Chalamja border crossing, a transport ministry official told AFP.
The Iraq-Iran line project is expected to take “between 18 and 24 months”.
The aim is to be able to transport “travellers from the Islamic Republic of Iran and Central Asian countries” to Shiite holy cities, Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said in a speech.
He said the project had been under discussion for years before an agreement was reached in 2021.
During Saturday’s ceremony, Sudani laid a symbolic foundation stone alongside Iran’s first vice president, Mohammad Mokhber.
Sudani thanked Tehran for planned demining operations at the border to pave the way for the railway line and a rail bridge over the Shatt al-Arab waterway, where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers converge before flowing into the Gulf.
Iraq and Iran fought an eight-year war in the 1980s after Saddam Hussein invaded his neighbour following Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.
Mokhber welcomed the “strategic” project, which he said would be completed “in the next two years”, Iranian state media reported.
Half of the planned 32 kilometres (20 miles) of railway will be on the Iranian side of the border, the official IRNA news agency said.
War-torn and plagued by rampant corruption, oil-rich Iraq suffers from poor infrastructure, including outdated highways and railways.
Sudani’s government has been working to create a growing number of regional partnerships.
In May, Baghdad unveiled a $17bn project, known as the “Development Route”, for a road and railway stretching 1,200km from Iraq’s northern border with Turkey to the Gulf in the south.