Iran’s Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mohammad Eslami said on Wednesday that the 354-kilometer highway would connect the city of Mehran on the western Iranian border to the holy city of Najaf in central Iraq.
“The Mehran-Najaf Highway could be a high-potential road for transit and trade exchanges between the two countries in addition to the function it would have for transporting the pilgrims,” Eslami said.
The minister added that Iranian and Iraqi officials had concluded “initial talks” for building the key road, Press TV reported.
A study by the Iranian parliament shows that nearly two million Iraqis visit Iran each year for pilgrimage purposes. The number of Iranians visiting Iraq for a similar reason is around 700,000 although over two million Iranians arrive in Iraq during the Arba'een period, a special religious occasion which takes place in the second month of the Islamic calendar.
Iraq is only second to China in Iran’s list of top export destinations with more than $12 billion worth of goods and services purchased from Iran each year.
Iran has embarked on a series of major transportation projects to facilitate trade with Iraq, including a railway that would connect cities on the southwestern border to the Iraqi port city of Basra.