Sat 20 Oct 2018

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Rural Aleppo’s Highways Turkey’s Gate to Reconstruction  

Planning activities and installation of traffic signs on the eastern highway of the city of al-Rai (Al-Rai City Civil Council)

Planning activities and installation of traffic signs on the eastern highway of the city of al-Rai (Al-Rai City Civil Council)

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Turkey continues to arrange its cards and draw an economic structure for the northern rural parts of Aleppo, a year and a half after controlling it with the “Euphrates Shield” military operation, through which it supported the “Free Army” factions in the face of the “Islamic State” (ISIS). The operation ended in March 2017.

Futuristic plans were designed by the Turkish government for the area, covering various levels, including security issues and economy. It launched a number of investments to revive the area’s economy, staring with the reopening of border crossings and turning them into “commercial” gates, in addition to building schools, hospitals, industrial areas and other projects, aiming to enhance its presence and win the privileges of the area’s reconstruction file.

 

Turkish Companies and Syrian Labors

The last of these investments is the construction of a highway, under international standard, to link the cities in Northern Syria, according to the Turkish newspaper “Yeni Şafak,” in it Monday, July 30, issue, in which it explained that the construction activities of the highway, extending from the al-Rai border crossing to the center of the city of al-Rai, are yet going on.

The newspaper reported that there are two other roads, as a part connected to the highway that will reach the city of al-Rai. The first expands to the city of al-Bab, while the second arrives at the city of Jarabulus, pointing out to a scheme that seeks to extend the highway to the city of Manbij, following the implementation of the agreement sealed between Turkey and U.S. and the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) departure from the city, which will play the role of the commercial gate between eastern Aleppo and Iraq by its location’s virtue.

Northern Aleppo area is a passage way for trucks that travel between the different Syrian areas, which various sides control, starting from the Kurdish “Self-Management” control areas, north-eastern Syria, to opposition-held Idlib, in the west-northern parts of Syria, as well as the adjacent areas in the south, which the Syrian regime controls.

Enab Baladi contacted Alaa Hamad, the Director of Public Relations Office of al-Rai City’s Civil Council, who confirmed that the first phase of the under-construction highway has so far expanded from al-Rai border crossing towards the city’s exit (the eastern highway), arriving at the city of al-Bab, at a length of six kilometers and 40 meters width. Road and traffic signs were installed at the length of the road and inside the city.

In the second phase, the high will expand from the Turkish side to Kilis highway towards the Turkish city of “Elbeyli” with a length of six kilometers.

In his interview with Enab Baladi, Hamad explained that the project will cost 60 million Turkish Liras (about a 12.2 million dollars). It is constructed under a total Turkish supervision. The area’s raw material, except for asphalt, were utilized, and more than 200 Syrian trucks were used to transport soil, which offered the drivers a job opportunity for the past three months.

An Economic Vein for Rural Aleppo

Talks about the highways opened the door for economic analysis, which connected the construction of these highways with the Turkish companies’ entry to the area to start the reconstruction process, for the newspaper has reported the presence of a scheme to transfer an area of 30 square kilometers, extending from the Turkish borders, covering Aleppo’s and Manbij’s borders, into a buffer zone once security has reigned, to be turned into a trade center to incubate the reconstruction processes in Syria.

Hamad, however, views the length of the highways reported in the newspaper as mere “subjective interpretation,” for there were no official statements about the issue on the part of official Turkish entities, considering that the goal behind the construction of the eastern highway (the above-mentioned highway) is to regulate the traffic crisis in the city of al-Rai, because the city is small and would not accommodate the passage of hundreds of trucks every day, especially that 100 vehicles enter and exit the border daily.

For his part, Mullham Jazmati, a researcher in the Syrian Economic Forum, attributed the construction of the highways to an attempt to extend an economic vein to the areas of rural Aleppo to facilitate the commercial exchange between them and Turkey, which will positively impact the two sides.

In an interview with Enab Baladi, Jazmati said that the cities of rural Aleppo are border only by Turkey and the Syrian regime’s control areas, and they currently deal, commercially and social, only with Turkey, believing that these areas would not afford to remain secluded from their regime-controlled neighboring areas. Accordingly, there will be an interaction between the two areas, even if rural Aleppo was to stay under the Turkish auspice, expecting the reconstruction of a roads network that connect rural Aleppo’s areas and the city of Aleppo.

Did the Reconstruction Process Start?

In the past a few days, many questions were raised about Turkey’s beginning the reconstruction of rural Aleppo areas. At a time where Turkish newspapers reported that Ankara might possibly supervise Aleppo city’s reconstruction, held by the Syrian regime, after conducting an agreement with Russia. Jazmati, however, believes that control over Aleppo is more of a political issue than economic one.

Jazmati said that what matters for Turkey is to win the reconstruction file in rural Aleppo, especially that the Turkish businessmen and merchants’ eyes are all on the area, wishing to start reconstructing it. So, there had been a need to create a vein (highways) from Turkey to these areas, as he put it, linking between this intention and allowing the Syrian merchants’ passage through Jarabulus to Turkey for a week, on the condition that they have a registered company in Turkey and a record of import and export value that is more than 50 thousand dollars.

The number of companies established in Turkey by Syrians is 7234 in four years, according to the Chambers of Commerce Union and the stock market in Turkey, which pointed that Syrians also have unlicensed companies, which pushes the total number to more than ten thousand companies.

 

 

 

Jazamti stressed that Turkey has already started the construction process in the area, when it supervised the building of hospitals and the development of infrastructure, pointing to a study that the Forum is currently conducting based on Turkey’s demand, on how to develop rural Aleppo commercially.

The study consists of two stages. The first is knowing the riches it possesses, and the second is recommending Turkey about that areas suitable for the establishment of factories and agricultural projects, before presenting it to the Turkish Chamber of Commerce in Gaziantep, pointing out that the study will be presented to the Turkish side in two months.

People in the northern countryside of Aleppo are suffering bad major and secondary roads, which deteriorated due to rain and mud, backed with holes, left by the cargo vehicles that are usually loaded with tons of materials.

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