TASHKENT: Uzbekistan and Afghanistan signed an agreement on Tuesday to extend a railroad connecting the two countries in a move which may eventually give Uzbe­kistan a direct link to sea ports.

Landlocked Uzbekistan’s access to marine shipping is very limited.

In 2011, Uzbek state railway company, Ozbekiston Temir Yollari, built a short link between Hairatan, a town on the Uzbek-Afghan border, and Mazar-i-Sharif, a major city in northern Afghanistan.

Tashkent has since expressed interest in extending that line to Herat, another Afghan city in the northwest, and a gateway to Iran. Another link, already under construction, will connect Herat to Iran, which may eventually enable Uzbekistan to send cargoes to and from its Gulf ports.

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s office said in a statement that he and visitng Afghan President Ashraf Ghani signed an agreement on the construction of the Mazar-i-Sharif-Herat railroad. It provided no details such as cost and funding. The original, short link was almost fully financed by the Asian Development Bank, which has also financed studies for the expansion project.

Mirziyoyev and Ghani also signed 20 other deals, including an agreement on the construction of a new electric power line and deals for supplies of Uzbek agricultural products, medicines and other goods to Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2017

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