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Concern Raised About Possible Closing of Iraq-Turkey Border Crossing


Truck and taxi drivers at the main crossing point of the border between Iraq and Turkey worry it could be closed soon, as the Turkish government threatens a military incursion into northern Iraq. The drivers say they would lose their jobs and that businesses would close on both sides of the border. Deborah Block reports from the northwestern border of Iraq.

Long lines of cargo trucks and taxis slowly wait their turn at the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing into northwestern Iraq. The road is the safest route for trucks carrying everything from fuel to cement.

Turkey's military has been massing at the border, ready to attack rebel bases of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. Ankara says the rebels are carrying out raids into Turkey and recently killed 12 soldiers in an ambush in the southeastern part of the country.

Most of the hundreds of drivers who cross the border each day are ethnic Kurds from both Iraq and Turkey. Many Kurds in Iraq say Turkey is using the PKK as an excuse to attack the northern Kurdistan region of Iraq. They say Ankara fears the political and economic success of the semi-autonomous region will spur Kurds in Turkey to demand their own autonomy.

A Turkish taxi driver was concerned about his future. After Turkey's threatened incursion, he says, business dropped considerably, adding that if Turkey closes the border, the taxi drivers will lose their jobs.

Each side of the border depends on the other. Many Turkish-owned businesses are in nearby Iraqi towns and supply them with a variety of goods. A number of those companies have shut down, recently, because they fear cross-border attacks by Turkey's military.

Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan has threatened sanctions on exports to Iraq to pressure the Iraqi government to strike at the rebels.

A truck driver at the border said sanctions would also hurt Turkey. He added that if Turkey closes the border, it will lose the economy, which depends on this cross-border trade.

An Iraqi man at the border says he helps Turkish companies in northern Iraq translate documents from Turkish into Kurdish. He says it is frustrating trying to get across the border into Turkey.

He says it is difficult to cross the border and that there are long waits at the check points because the guards search everything.

Like many others in northern Iraq, this translator says the border problem between Turkey's government and the rebels should be solved with diplomacy, rather than violence.

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