Cablegate: Turkish Customs Undersecretary On Iraqi Border

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.






E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Turkish Customs Undersecretary on Iraqi Border
Crossing, Fuel Smuggling

1. (U) Baghdad minimize considered.

2. (SBU) Summary: Turkey's Customs Undersecretary told
us that two-way crossings at Habur total about 1,500
vehicles daily, and that he expects this traffic to more
than double in the near future. Following a stoppage at
the border prompted by a Kurdistan Democratic Party
attempt to collect higher fees from truckers last week,
traffic is now flowing smoothly. Turkish Customs
continues to confiscate smuggled fuel oil coming from
Iraq. Despite reports that that Turkey had decided
today to open its borders to Iraqi imports, Foreign
Trade sources have told us that it will take at least
several days to implement this. MFA noted interest in
reestablishing air transport links with Baghdad, and
asked for the U.S. view on whether bilateral trade and
transport agreements negotiated with the old regime in
Iraq are still valid. End Summary.

3. (SBU) Econ Counselor, Econoff and Econ Specialist
discussed Turkish-Iraqi trade and the Habur border
crossing with Customs Undersecretary Nevzat Saygilioglu
and with Acting Director General for EC and External
Relations Sebahattin Kocas on June 11. Econ Counselor
thanked Saygilioglu for Turkish cooperation in securing
the flow of humanitarian supplies to Iraq, and stated
that U.S. authorities were working to create a uniform
trade and tariff policy throughout Iraq.

4. (SBU) Saygilioglu stated that, with sanctions lifted,
Turkey's only border crossing with Iraq at Habur was now
handling a combined flow of about 1,500 vehicles daily
(though Turkey has yet to establish procedures to allow
imports from Iraq). Customs has extended its working
hours to a daily 07:30 to 01:00 schedule. Saygilioglu
predicted that traffic between Turkey and Iraq would
increase in the near future to 3,000 to 4,000 vehicles
daily. He offered his "personal" opinion that a second
border crossing would be necessary, but noted that an
interagency group would decide whether or not to pursue
this project. A second crossing would require up to 35
kilometers of new roads.

5. (SBU) Saygilioglu acknowledged that border operations
had been disrupted last week by Kurdish Democratic Party
attempts to raise fees to USD 120 per truck, but that
KDP had apparently reduced its demand to USD 20 per
truck. Traffic is now flowing smoothly across the

6. (SBU) While agreeing with the U.S. goal of
encouraging Turkish-Iraqi trade relations, Saygilioglu
complained about Iraqi smuggling of fuel oil into
Turkey. He said that Turkish prices for this product
were currently 15 times higher than those in Iraq and
that this provided the stimulus for smuggling. EconCouns
suggested that importing cheaper fuel should be positive
for Turkey. However, Saygilioglu condemned the trade as
subjecting Turkish businesses to "unfair" competition
and pointed out the poor quality of smuggled fuel. He
stated that Customs had confiscated 100 tons of such
fuel on June 10.

7. (SBU) The Undersecretary stated that Customs
facilities at Habur were in need of extensive
renovation, and that the GOT was considering use of the
build-operate-transfer (BOT) model to secure private
sector investment. He pointed out that the BOT model
had been successfully used to build customs facilities
on the Greek and Iranian borders.

8. (SBU) Following our meeting at Customs, we received
reports that the government had decided to open the
border to Iraqi imports, implementing the UN sanctions
lift resolution. However, Foreign Trade Director
General for Agreements clarified to us on June 12 that,
while this decision has been taken in principle, many
details have yet to be worked out and the opening to
Iraqi imports will not be implemented for at least
several days. Other sources told us the government was
still waiting for the Turkish military to bless the

9. (SBU) In a separate meeting, MFA Ambassador Okcun
told Econ Counselor that the GOT is organizing a visit
to Baghdad by Turkish airline representatives to survey
the airport, Turkish airline offices and discuss the
possibility of renewing air links with Baghdad. He also
said Turkey hopes to find out soon whether its bilateral
trade and transport agreements with Iraq were still
considered valid.

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