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Eurasianet is an independent news organization that covers news from and about the South Caucasus and Central Asia, providing on-the-ground reporting and critical perspectives on…

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China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Railway Project Revived After Years of Delays

  • China, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan have signed an intergovernmental agreement to construct a railway connecting Kashgar in China to Andijan in Uzbekistan.
  • The project has been in the planning stages for over 20 years and is expected to cost around $8 billion.
  • The railway is seen as a major economic development project for Central Asia, providing a direct rail link between China and South Asia and the Middle East.

After spending some time on a sidetrack, the long-planned China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway may be ready to get back on the main line. The heads of state of the three participating nations have approved an intergovernmental agreement to transform the railway from “a vision into a reality,” according to the Xinhua news agency.

It was a virtual signing ceremony for what, to date, has seemed like a chimerical project. Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov each affixed his signature to the agreement via video link. Specifics of the agreement were not immediately disclosed.

Official statements stuck to generalities. According to a Xinhua report, the agreement establishes “a solid legal basis for the construction of the project.” A Kyrgyz government statement, meanwhile, said the three states had settled on “the basic principles and mechanisms of cooperation,” including “financing, construction, operation and maintenance of the railway.”

Mirziyoyev chose to focus on the future, not the present, in remarks delivered during the virtual ceremony. “This road will allow our countries to enter the wide markets of South Asia and the Middle East through the promising Trans-Afghan Corridor,” the Podrobno.uz outlet quoted the Uzbek president as saying.

Participants in the signing ceremony did not mention the project’s cost or a construction timeline. Xi indicated only that the participants would strive to complete the railway “as soon as possible.” The Podrobno report mentioned the railway’s route would stretch from the western Chinese hub of Kashgar to the Uzbek city of Andijan in the Ferghana Valley, passing through Torugart, Makmal and Jalalabad.

The project’s cost has been widely viewed as the biggest obstacle to date. Plans to build the railway date back more than 20 years. The June 6 agreement doesn’t offer much clarity about financing. Completing the railway could come close to costing $8 billion, according to one estimate.

Late last year, Japarov said he hoped the project could launch in 2024, but acknowledged that funding hadn’t been lined up. 

In late May, the Kyrgyz president and Chinese Vice Premier Liu Guozhong spoke about a need to create a joint investment fund. In March, Kyrgyz officials floated a trial balloon about establishing a public-private partnership mechanism to finance and operate the railway.

By Eurasianet.org


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