On Tuesday, the governments of Uzbekistan and Afghanistan signed an agreement to develop a rail link between the two countries. The agreement provides for Uzbekistan to have direct access via Afghanistan to Iran’s international seaports.
Uzbekistan has no direct access to international shipping. In 2011, the Uzbek State Railway Ozbekiston Temir Yollari built a short link between Hairatan, a city on the Uzbek-Afghan border, and Mazar-e Scharif, located in the north of Afghanistan.
The Central Asian Turk state announced that the Mazar-e Sharif line will be extended to the West Afghan city of Herat. Meanwhile, Iran is working on its own connection between Herat and the national rail network. This could potentially allow Uzbekistan to use Iranian seaports on the Persian Gulf for economic transport.
The office of Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev informed that he had signed an agreement on the construction of the Mazar-e Sharif-Herat Railway during the visit of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
According to the Interfax news agency, Afghanistan’s leader Ghani said the agreement could boost economic relations between the two neighbouring countries. Ghani added:
„Afghanistan wants to be a reliable trading and economic partner for Uzbekistan, expanding mutually beneficial contacts and founding new joint ventures.“
The rail link between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan was financed almost entirely by the Asian Development Bank. Mirziyoyev and Ghani also signed 20 other treaties, including an agreement on the construction of a new power line and contracts for the supply of Uzbek agricultural products, medicines and other goods to Afghanistan.
Interfax reported that they have also agreed on measures to ensure the safety of the Hairatan Bridge connecting the two countries, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.