Iraq to resume regular train service with Turkey after 20 year break

The Associated Press
7/14/01 6:24 PM

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Iraq said Saturday it will resume regular passenger train service to Turkey, a former foe in the 1991 Gulf War, after a break of more than 20 years.

The first Iraqi passenger train will leave Baghdad on Friday, passing through Mosul in northern Iraq and northeastern Syria into Mardin across the border in Turkey. The individual one-way ticket costs about $20.

"For the time being, it will be a weekly trip. But we are planning to increase the trains if there are more passengers," Falah Hassan Habsi, Iraqi Railways' acting director general, was quoted as saying by the official Iraqi News Agency on Saturday.

Railway services between Turkey and Iraq were suspended during the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war. Relations between the countries were later strained by the Gulf War, in which Turkey took part in the U.S.-led multinational force that drove Iraqi troops out of Kuwait.

Turkey still serves as a base for U.S. and British warplanes enforcing the northern no-fly zone in Iraq. Relations have also been affected by Baghdad's oft-repeated accusations that Turkey is restricting the flow of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

On May 6, Turkey sent its first freight train to Iraq. On Friday, the second Turkish train with 450 tons of Turkish goods imported by Iraq under the U.N. oil-for-food program arrived in Baghdad after a stopover in Mosul.

Earlier this year, Iraq resumed regular train services with neighboring Syria.

Despite past frictions, Turkey is considered to be Iraq's main trading partner. The two countries signed a trade agreement in February and pledged to return their trade exchange to its pre-1990 levels.