Iraq reopens Al Qaim border crossing with Syria

Five years after ISIL captured the area, Iraq-Syria frontier reopened near the town of Al Qaim.

    Al Qaim faces Albu Kamal in Syria's vast eastern region of Deir Az Zor [Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters]
    Al Qaim faces Albu Kamal in Syria's vast eastern region of Deir Az Zor [Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters]

    A border crossing on a vital highway linking the capitals of Iraq and Syria has reopened five years after it was seized by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS) group.

    Iraqi security forces retook the border post near the town of Al Qaim in late 2017 as part of a major operation backed by an international coalition against the fighters' self-proclaimed "caliphate".

    Close to the Euphrates River in Iraq's restive Anbar province, Al Qaim faces Al Bukamal in Syria's vast eastern region of Deir Az Zor.

    It is the only crossing between the two countries controlled by Syrian forces on one side and Iraqi federal authorities on the other.

    Al Jazeera's Imran Khan, reporting from the border post, said the Syrian ambassador to Iraq and its interior minister walked across the border on Monday and met an Iraqi government representative.

    View of Iraqi-Syrian border in Al Qaim
    Posters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seen at the border, [Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters]

    "This is being seen as a success story for the Iraqis," Khan said. "Iraq wants to see this trade route into Syria reopened and they are going to reopen two more border crossings with Syria in the coming weeks."

    He said the development had wider regional implications as well. 

    "The idea that the Iraqis and Syrians, who traditionally have had very good relations, are reopening these border crossings, the Syrians are encouraging embassies to reopen in Damascus. They want to normalise relations with their neighbours," Khan said.

    While one border crossing was destroyed in the fighting, the rest are controlled by Kurdish forces which have a degree of autonomy in both countries.

    The roughly 600km (370 miles) frontier runs through desert and mountains, making it extremely difficult to control.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies