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article imageSyria, Iraq say joint border crossing to re-open soon

By AFP     Oct 15, 2018 in World

A border crossing between Syria and Iraq is to re-open soon, Damascus and Baghdad's top diplomats said Monday, hours after other Syrian frontier posts reopened with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan.

"We are now looking at the interest of the Syrian and Iraqi people in opening up the Albu Kamal crossing... as soon as possible," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said at a press conference in Damascus.

Albu Kamal is the only one of three crossings on the Iraqi border in Syria's far east to be controlled by regime forces on the Syrian side.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Jaafari added that the opening of the crossing, known as Al-Qaim in Iraq, was "imminent".

After Syria's war broke out, rebels and then jihadists from Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate took over the Albu Kamal frontier post.

In 2014, the Islamic State group seized control of the crossing as it swept across large parts of Syria and Iraq, declaring a so-called "caliphate" in areas it controlled.

The two other border crossings between Syria and Iraq escape regime control.

To the north, Yaarubiya, also known as Rabia on the Iraqi side, in the northeastern province of Hasakeh is held by Kurdish forces.

And to the south, Al-Tanaf, named Al-Waleed by the Iraqis, is held by the US-led coalition and rebel factions it supports.

"For us, the border posts are not just geographical crossings, but also cultural, economic, political and even demographic," Jaafari said.

"This is why efforts have been made and will continue to be made to open these border posts," he said.

Iraq recently redeployed its forces on the border with Syria in a bid to stem the flow of weapons and IS fighters.

Today, the jihadists have lost much of their territory to various offensives in both countries but still retain a presence in the desert near the frontier.

Both countries have coordinated their efforts in fighting IS, and Iraqi planes have carried out air strikes against the jihadists in coordination with the Damascus authorities.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday lauded this cooperation.

"Victories against terrorism in Syria and Iraq are shared victories," he said.

The sole crossing point between Syria and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights in Quneitra, as well as the key Nassib trade post with neighbouring Jordan, re-opened on Monday.

After seven years of civil war, Syria's government has recaptured large parts of the country with Russian backing.

But it still only controls around half of the 19 crossing points with its neighbours, including Lebanon and Turkey.

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