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Turkmenistan, Afghanistan open new rail, power and communication links

By Caravanserai and AFP

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The first train from Aqina, Afghanistan, to Andkhoy, Afghanistan, is shown January 14 in Aqina. The train carried 20 cars of exported Turkmen products. Turkmenistan led the construction of the 30km-long railway segment. [Afghan Presidential Palace (ARG) / Facebook]

ASHGABAT -- Turkmenistan and Afghanistan have inaugurated new transport, power and communications links, Turkmenistan said Thursday (January 14), touting its role rebuilding Afghanistan's conflict-torn economy.

A trio of Turkmen Foreign Ministry statements said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov had participated via teleconference in opening ceremonies for a new branch of the railway connecting the two countries, a new power transmission line and a fibre optic line.

The 500KV, 153km-long power transmission line connecting Kerki in Turkmenistan to Sheberghan in Afghanistan is the first leg of the Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan (TAP) power project partly financed by the Asian Development Bank.

Afghanistan's fourth largest city, Mazar-e-Sharif, is among the cities slated to receive Turkmen electricity, according to the Foreign Ministry readout.

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Turkmen and Afghan officials January 14 in Aqina, Afghanistan, inaugurate a 30km-long railway segment to Andkhoy, Afghanistan. Turkmenistan led construction of the railway. [Turkmen Foreign Ministry]

Rail extended

Afghanistan and Turkmenistan have been connected by rail since late 2016, and the latest branch extends the line down from the Afghan border settlement of Aqina to Andkhoy, another Afghan town 30km south.

According to the Turkmen Foreign Ministry readout, the opening was "marked by the solemn dispatch from the Aqina station towards the city of Andkhoy of a train consisting of 20 cars loaded with export products from Turkmenistan".

A readout on the new fibre optic line said that Afghan Communications Minister Masoumeh Khavari had praised the project as boosting Afghanistan's "e-government" and internet connectivity drive.

The cables connect the customs point of Imamnazar in Turkmenistan to Aqina in Afghanistan, and Serkhetabat in Turkmenistan to Torghundi in Afghanistan.

Turkmen generosity

Turkmenistan has spent $1.25 billion (4.4 billion TMT) on projects aimed at integration with Afghanistan, Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov said last November.

Meredov also said Turkmenistan planned to begin this year construction of the Afghan section of the Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India (TAPI) natural-gas pipeline.

The pipeline -- long delayed amid questions over financing and security -- will stretch 1,840km when finished and transport more than 30 billion cubic metres of natural gas annually from Turkmenistan's giant Galkynysh gas field.

With its completion, Turkmenistan would gain an additional gas export route, while Afghanistan, in addition to receiving its own volume of gas, would pocket $1 billion (3.5 billion TMT) in annual income and would net 12,000 jobs by transporting it on to other countries, Turkmen analysts have said.

It is expected to help ease energy shortages in South Asia and generate revenue for the four countries that it traverses. Its completion date has been pushed back several times.

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