By Deniz Cicek Palabiyik
ANKARA (AA) - Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said Thursday that Turkey supports the opening of two new border gates along its border with Iraq and the Iraqi government is the only authority on goods entering that country.
Zeybekci’s remarks came at a news conference that followed a meeting in Ankara with an Iraqi delegation led by that country’s Planning Minister Salman Ali al-Jumaili.
Zeybekci said Turkey backs the opening of a new border in Ovakoy, in the southeastern Turkish province of Sirnak near Iraq and another, just 5 miles (8 kilometers) away in the Iraqi town of Faysh Khabur, separated with the Syrian border by the Tigris River.
Turkey does not support any authority, except the Iraqi government, to implement tax and standards and hopes Turkey and Iraq will benefit from economic opportunities.
"Our first goal is to transform trade and economic relations between the two countries to deep partnerships," he said, while highlighting the volume between the neighbors increased nearly 15 percent in 2017 compared to 2016. "This figure is far below the figures of 2012-2013. I wish 2018 figures will reach 2012 - 2013 figures at least."
Trade data was not immediately available.
He said terror attacks have had significant economic costs to both countries and Turkey is well aware of the effect.
Zeybekci added that tens of thousands of civilians in Turkey have been victimized by terror for nearly 40 years and there is not any economic value in exchange for the lives of victims.
"The separatist terrorist organization costs Turkey, Turkish economy and people's prosperity hundred billions of dollars and our calculations say that this cost is nearly $1 trillion," Zeybekci said.
Turkey has been subjected to a decades-long fight by the PKK that is listed as a terrorist organization by Ankara as well as the U.S. and EU.
More than 40,000 victims have been killed, including women and children, in the terror group’s campaign.
Zeybekci said Turkey supports Iraq's territorial integrity and independence and, technical preparations for the opening of the Ovakoy gate is proceeding rapidly and it is possible its inauguration will be soon.
Turkey is Iraq’s biggest trading partner, according to al-Jumaili, who said Iraqis prefer Turkish goods because of its quality and believe in Turkish businesses.
Like Zeybekci, he wanted trade relations between the two countries to get back to its 2012- 2013 peak.
"In the last term Iraq got rid of Daesh trouble. And the country's security concerns are now going down. Iraq fought much against terrorist organizations for a long time," al-Jumaili said and added that his nation’s infrastructure has been severely damaged by attacks.
"We can say Daesh terrorist organization's damage to Iraq nearly costs $100 billion." he said, adding he hopes Turkish companies join in Iraq’s reconstruction.
Iraq is waiting for the inauguration of the gate in Ovakoy that al-Jumaili said would avoid double taxation and allow goods to more quickly enter Iraq.