ANKARA: Despite the continuing risk of contagion, Iran and Turkey decided on Thursday to partially re-open their Bazargan (Gurbulak in Turkey) land border for 60 trucks per day on the condition of respecting mutually agreed health protocols.
The decision to open the border in Turkey’s Agri province followed the talks between Iran’s presidential chief of staff Mahmoud Vaezi and Turkish trade minister Ruhsar Pekcan three days ago on strengthening bilateral trade.
According to the Iranian press, they both “emphasized the need to resume border exchanges and road transport between the two countries with the aim of developing trade relations” during their phone conversation.
Early on Thursday 45 trucks loaded with watermelons, dates, kiwi fruits and trade items were allowed to pass into Turkish territory after forming kilometers-long queues at the border.
Bilateral trade was conducted mainly by railway in the past two months, especially for food items and fruits. Months-long border closures along Turkey’s Iranian border due to the coronavirus outbreak has severely slowed bilateral trade, with transport trucks waiting at the borders for weeks.
The Bazargan crossing was the most active customs point on the border. Turkish truck drivers recently complained about the poor health conditions there and the bad treatment they received from Iranian customs police, with taps even being removed from the toilets.
Turkey closed its four land border crossings with Iran in late February.
However, the return to normal trade conditions for trucks and the resumption of trade activities to pre-outbreak levels carry significant health risks for both countries as they seek to keep afloat their fragile economies, the experts warn, unless strict hygiene precautions are taken for the trucks and their drivers.
As the first country in the Middle East with confirmed cases of COVID-19, Iran is still a source of concern after officials eased lockdown in the country as new cases are once again almost ten percent higher than the daily average of the previous week.
Turkey has also announced it will reduce virus preventive measures next week across much of the country, with routes opening between some virus-hit regions and seaside destinations.
Some 6,418 Iranians have died so far from the virus, while Turkey has recorded 3500 deaths more than 131,000 cases, the eighth highest number of COVID-19 cases around the world.