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Turkmenistan opens first rail link with Afghanistan

Asian neighbours Turkmenistan and Afghanistan today opened the first section of a $2-billion link, connecting their two countries by rail, for the first time and set to extend to Tajikistan.

Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani attended the celebrations. A train pulling 46 freight cars completed the 3-km journey from Turkmenistan's Imamnazar customs point to Akina in Afghanistan. This represents the tail end of an 88-km link with Afghanistan that Turkmenistan began building back in 2013.

Berdymukhamedov said in a speech that the project "is written in golden letters in the history of our brotherly nations."  If completed, the 400-km railway would boost trade between the three countries in a landlocked region, where transport infrastructure is generally weak and could link up with other rail routes across Asia.

For commodity-rich former Soviet nation Turkmenistan, in particular, the freight link offers the opportunity to increase its energy exports to neighbouring countries. Nevertheless, the project is weighed down with concerns about security in Afghanistan that prompted key backer the Asian Development Bank to suspend support for it last year. 
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