Turkmenistan has not yet approved protocol on the TAT project signed by Tajikistan and Afghanistan

01/08/2016 15:46
Payrav Chorshanbiyev
Views: 4015

DUSHANBE, August 1, 2016, Asia-Plus -- The Government of Turkmenistan has not yet approved the protocol on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Afghanistan (TAT) railway construction project signed by Tajikistan and Afghanistan, Tajik Minister of Transport Sherali Ganjalzoda told reporters in Dushanbe on August 1.

According to him, the Tajik and Afghan sides signed the protocol in 2014 and submitted it for consideration to the Turkmen side on the same year.    

“When we apply on this subject to the Turkmen transport ministry they always say that the document is still under consideration of the government,” the minister said.  

We will recall that ex-head of Tajik Railways (Tajik state railway company), Amonullo Hukumatullo, told journalists in Dushanbe on January 29, 2014 that Tajikistan and Afghanistan have agreed on the routing of the Afghan segment of the TAT project.

The Tajik side has reportedly proposed a little more than 200-kilometer route from Kelif in Afghanistan to the Khoshadi station in the Shahritous district of Tajikistan’s Khatlon province and Afghanistan has accepted that proposal.  Afghanistan had initially proposed the route from Kelif to Sherkhan Bandar that would be longer and costlier for Tajik shippers.

The announcement apparently caught Ashgabat by surprise because on January 31, 2014, the Turkmen Foreign Ministry protested that Hukumatullo’s declaration was “tendentious and absolutely unacceptable” and “counterproductive.”

Ganjalzoda noted on August 1 that the Tajik and Afghan side had come to agreement on the route and signed the appropriate protocol that had been sent for consideration to the Turkmen side.  

Meanwhile, the TAT railway construction project remains questionable because of uncertainty in the current situation in Afghanistan.

Usmon Qalandarov, the deputy head of Tajik Railways, told reporters in Dushanbe on July 27 that the Asian Development Bank has suspended its financial support for the construction of the TAT railway due to security risks in Afghanistan.

“We are ready to begin construction of our section of the railway, but everything depends on Afghanistan,” Qalandarov said.

Si Si Yu, ADB’s Country Director for Tajikistan, told reporters in Dushanbe on December 15, 2015 that the ADB has stopped financing the railway project because of the increasing tension in Afghanistan.

“Although Turkmenistan has completed construction of its section of the railway, we do not intend to finance construction of a railway in country where (Afghanistan) security is not guaranteed,” Yu said. “It’s very risky.”

“We will probably return to this project when the security situation in Afghanistan improves,” ADB’s country director for Tajikistan added.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) for construction of the rail link connecting the three countries was signed during a trilateral meeting of the presidents of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan that took place in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat on March 20, 2013.

The 400-kilometer railroad is expected to connect the Afghan town of Akina-Andkhoy to Atamurat-Ymamnazar in Turkmenistan and Panj in Tajikistan.  

The presidents of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan officially inaugurated the construction of the railway connecting the three nations on June 5, 2013.  Presidents Hamid Karzai, Emomali Rahmon and Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov participated in the ceremony that took place in Turkmenistan's northeastern province of Lebap.  They buried a time capsule with a message to future generations under the first section of the railway line near the town of Atamyrat.

TAT railway will be a part of a broader regional transportation initiative that will open a new transit corridor between Central Asia and world markets through Indian Ocean ports, a route less than half as long as Central Asian existing railway export options through Russia to the Baltic Sea coast.  The TAT railway has a regional strategic implication, as it will enable Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan to have a railway line bypassing Uzbekistan.  While the TAT railroad will diversify the transport routes of Tajikistan and Afghanistan, the greatest beneficiary will be Tajikistan, as the TAT rail line will allow it to overcome its current transportation deadlock and dependency on Uzbek railroads for transit.  In the past Uzbekistan has frequently blocked its railway lines linking to Tajikistan, using Tajik transit dependency as leverage for political pressure.

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