Tajik rail plan fails to get Bishkek's backing

By bne IntelliNews June 18, 2012

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Plans for a railway running from Afghanistan to China via Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan suffered a setback after Kyrgyzstan's Transport and Communications Minister Kalybek Sultanov said Bishkek is not interested in the project.

The planned route is strongly supported by the Tajik government, which is keen to diversify its international links. Currently it has only one such route, on which it faces frequent problems due to fractious relations with neighbouring Uzbekistan. Dushanbe has several times accused the Uzbek government of holding up freight wagons to exert political pressure.

However, Sultanov said on June 15 that Bishkek is unlikely to agree to the Tajik proposal. "It doesn't interest us much at this time, because there's another project, the China-Kyrgyzstan railway, that's more important economically and strategically," the official said, according to Tazabek.kg.

That's bad news for Bishkek, which risks being sidelined by the new regional link. The China-Kyrgyzstan railway would run from the west Chinese town of Kashagar via Naryn in east Kyrgyzstan to the Fergana Valley where it would link to the Uzbek rail network at the border town of Kara Suu.

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