Jordan border crossing with Iraq to reopen Wednesday

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Jordan will open its main border crossing with Iraq on Wednesday for the first time since 2015 now that Iraqi forces have gained control of the main highway to Baghdad from ISIS militants, officials said on Tuesday.

Al Arabiya English on Friday first reported the opening of the Turaibil al-Karamah crossing which was scheduled for September 3. Iraqi officials, however, requested the opening to be moved up to Wednesday due to the improved security situation.

Iraqi troops pulled out of the Tureibil post, on the 180 km border, in the summer of 2014 after the militants secured nearly all the official crossings of the western frontier as they swept through a third of the country.

Commercial traffic continued for a year after until Iraq launched an offensive in July 2015 to reclaim the predominately Sunni Anbar province and deprive the militants of funds raised from truck drivers forced to pay a tax on cargo coming in from Jordan.

Officials have said that customs and border arrangements have been finalized, with security measures in place to ensure the 550 km highway from the border to Baghdad was safe.

"The opening of the crossing is of great importance to Jordan and Iraq ... It's a crucial artery. Jordan and Iraq have been discussing reopening it for a while," Interior Minister Ghaleb al Zubi said last week.

Zubi did not give a date then, but several trade and business officials have said they have been invited to an event on Wednesday to mark the re-opening that would include senior Jordanian and Iraqi officials.

Since last year, the Iraqi army has regained most of Anbar province's main towns that fell to the ultra-hardline jihadist group.

The vast sprawling desert province is an historic hotbed of the hardline Sunni insurgency sparked by 2003’s US-led invasion of Iraq, which empowered the oil-rich nation’s Shi’ite majority.

Iraq has also been working on securing the highway that connects Iraq's Basra port in the south to Jordan, where the Red Sea port of Aqaba has long served as a gateway for Iraqi imports coming from Europe.

Although the highway has been secured after driving out the jihadists, the threat of hit-and run attacks on convoys and the army are ever present, according to security experts.

There have been several attacks by militants near al-Rutba town, the last town before the border with Jordan.

A senior Western diplomatic said Iraqi authorities have awarded a contract to a US security company that will employ a local force to secure the highway. The source gave no further details.

Jordan hopes the reopening of the route will revive exports to Iraq, once the kingdom's main export market, accounting that accounted for almost a fifth of domestic exports or about $1.2 billion a year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

They have fallen by more than 50 percent from pre-crisis level.

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