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Turkey's Erdogan opposes India-Middle East transport project

Turkish president says Ankara is backing a rival scheme to connect the Gulf to Turkey through Iraq, called the Development Road Project
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of the G20 Leaders' Summit in New Delhi on 9 September 2023
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) shakes hands with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of the G20 Leaders' Summit in New Delhi on 9 September 2023 (AFP)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday pushed back against plans announced by the leaders of India, Saudi Arabia and the EU to create a trade corridor that would link South Asia to Europe and bypass Turkey.

“We say that there is no corridor without Turkey,” Erdogan told journalists accompanying him to a G20 summit in India on Sunday. “Turkey is an important production and trade base. The most convenient line for traffic from east to west has to pass through Turkey.” 

The transport link, dubbed the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor, or IMEC, aims to establish railway lines and shipping that will pass through the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel, then reach to Greece and Europe. 

A memorandum of understanding on the corridor was signed by the European Union, India, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the US and other G20 partners.

One of the main objectives of the project is to cut shipping times by 40 percent and save money on other costs, and fuel use. 

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But the project, in its current form, bypasses Turkey. 

Erdogan said he is aware that many countries are trying to expand their area of influence by creating trade corridors and Turkey backs the Iraq Development Road Project, which aims to connect the Gulf to Turkey and Europe through a railway and highway via ports in the UAE, Qatar and Iraq

Erdogan said UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed, in particular, "made a much more determined suggestion on this issue on Saturday".

The Turkish president quoted the Emirati leader as saying: "Let's not prolong this matter, let our friends finish the negotiations in 60 days, and let's lay the foundations immediately and hit the road.”

Erdogan added: “The United Arab Emirates is very ready for this job. Qatar is very ready. We are very, very ready for it. I hope we will have taken this step in this way.” 

Trains operating at 300kph

The development road project entails the creation of a dual-track railway spanning approximately 1,200 km and the construction of a modern highway running out of al-Faw, a port in southern Iraq's Basra governorate.

The Iraqi government envisions trains operating at speeds of up to 300 kilometres per hour facilitating the transportation of both passengers and goods.

Additionally, plans include the establishment of logistic hubs, industrial complexes and the potential integration of oil and gas pipelines.

This ambitious scheme is estimated to require an investment of around $17bn, with projected annual returns of $4bn and the creation of a minimum of 100,000 jobs.

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