Syria, Iraq mark victory against IS with opening of key border crossing

DEIR AL-ZOUR, Syria, Sept. 30 (Xinhua) — Under the victory banner, the Bukamal-Qaim border crossing between Syria and Iraq was reopened on Monday, the first time since its closure in 2014 when Islamic State (IS) militants captured areas on both sides of the border.

Xinhua reporters at the site witnessed the reopening of that key border crossing, which connects the town of Al-Bukamal in Syria’s eastern province of Deir al-Zour to the city of Husaybah in the Al-Qaim District of Iraq’s Anbar governorate.

At the fence separating the Syrian and Iraqi territory, Iraqi and Syrian flags were hoisted with a banner reading “the reopening of the Bukamal-Qaim border crossing is a declaration of victory by the Syrian and Iraqi brothers against the takfiri terrorism.”

Kazem Al-Aqabi, head of the Iraqi border crossing authority, as well as Syria’s Interior Minister Mohammad Rahmoun, inaugurated the border reopening ceremony.

Rahmoun told reporters during the ceremony that the crossing is crucial for trade movement and personal travel between Syria and Iraq, which bears social, political and economic value for both countries.

He said that all crossings with Iraq had been closed due to the presence of IS in the area.

For his side, Al-Aqabi said mutual meetings between Iraqi and Syrian officials should take place to organize the work at the crossing.

“Travel and goods movement will start today and we invite our brothers in Syria to hold mutual meetings to regulate the procedure of granting entry visas for both countries and to organize the process of trade exchange and the trucks movement from Syria to Iraq and vice versa in a way that preserves the rights of both countries,” he said.

The crossing is one of three major border crossings shared between Iraq and Syria and is considered one of the major supply routes across the Middle East.

The Syrian-Iraqi border points were all closed when the Islamic State (IS) captured areas on both sides of the borders between 2013 and 2014.

In 2017, the Iraqi forces captured the Al-Qaim area from IS and the Syrian army captured the al-Bukamal.

The crossing was supposed to be reopened last month, but the event was delayed due to logistic preparations.

Israel also struck positions of Iranian-backed fighters near al-Bukamal last month as part of its anti-Iran campaign in Syria.

The border crossing is crucial also politically and militarily as it links Iran with the Mediterranean through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Last October, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem and Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said at a press conference in Syria’s capital Damascus that the border crossings between Iraq and Syria should be opened after the major defeat of IS in both countries.

The Syrian Ministry of Information had invited Syria-based journalists to attend the reopening ceremony of the crossing.

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