Iraq is preparing to host a conference for regional transport ministers this month to discuss prospects for economic co-operation, Prime Minister Mohammed Al Sudani said on Wednesday.
Transport ministers from Gulf Co-operation Council countries, Iran, Turkey, Syria and Jordan will come to the Iraqi capital to “discuss and implement a strategic development project”, he said.
One topic of discussion is likely to be the monumental Development Road project, which will run from southern Iraq to the Turkish border.
Baghdad and Ankara have started work on a “strategic road project that connects the port of Faw port in the south to the Turkish border and then to Europe”, Mr Al Sudani said.
The project could cost about $17 billion, according to the official Iraqi news agency.
A completion date for the project has not been released.
“Our meeting in Baghdad with Gulf and regional leaders is vital because of the project's prospects for regional and economic co-operation,” the Prime Minister said.
The project involves the construction of 1,200 kilometres of rail networks and new motorways that expand outward from Al Faw port on the Arabian Gulf in Basra province, which is currently under construction.
The network will then be connected to rail and road networks in Europe through Turkey.
Iraq’s Transport Minister said in March that the project aims to turn Iraq into a commercial “transit hub” between Asia and Europe via Turkey.
“This is a strategic project that has been endorsed by the government … the rail and the road will pass through several Iraqi governorates and end up at the border with Turkey,” Razzak Al Saadawi said in a statement.
“It will give us access to the Turkish Port of Mersin and then Istanbul and Europe.”
In another development, Mr Al Sudani is set to take part in a major monumental Arab League summit on Friday in Saudi Arabia.
He said the summit is a “golden opportunity for the Arab League to lead the scene in the region”.
Syrian President Bashar Al Assad is expected to attend and end his country's 12-year exile from the body.
Mr Al Assad's invitation to the summit in Jeddah signals his return to the fold after more than a decade of isolation following his government's brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 2011, which triggered a civil war that has killed more than 500,000 people.