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Iran, Afghanistan inaugurate joint railway project

A joint railway project linking eastern Iran to western Afghanistan was inaugurated on Thursday with presidents of the two neighboring countries delivering remarks through video-conference and expressing hope it will enhance trade links across the region.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that the two nations have always had a close relationship and that the Khaf-Herat railway project will further strengthen this bond.

“Today is the day of compassion, mercy and also day of breakthrough for the two great nations of Iran and Afghanistan. The two nations from the same root, history, culture and from the same region who have maintained their brotherhood and neighborliness in the long run of history.”

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, for his part, welcomed the “historic” project, hailing it as a step towards further development of the two nations’ economies.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has described the project as a boost to regional trade and popular exchanges.

“The Khaf-Herat railway’s significance is not only for Iran & Afghanistan, but for the greater region. As a gateway that’ll boost trade and people-to-people exchanges, it will also contribute to regional stability & development. Turning our frontiers into bridges is a priority,” the chief diplomat tweeted on Wednesday.

The 225-km railroad project includes four phases that are currently under construction. About 78 km of the project, which includes two phases, is on Iran’s soil and the rest in Afghanistan.

Khaf-Herat, which is part of the Iran-Afghanistan rail corridor, started in the fiscal year of 2007-2008 and connects Iran’s eastern city of Khaf to Afghanistan’s western city of Ghoryan.

Completion of the project will affect transit facilities in Afghanistan and solve many investors’ and merchants’ problems in the country.

Implementation of the project will also show the importance of Iran’s position once again as it makes a boom in regional trade – exports and imports. The railway project will also contribute to the development of tourism.

“With the opening of the railway line, easier conditions have been created for the transportation of goods, so we hope that this issue will have positive effects on trade between Iran and Afghanistan,” head of Iran-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce Hossein Salimi said Tuesday.

“Freight transportation by train to Afghanistan will cost exporters less than freight transportation by truck, while delays in freight transportation by truck, such as delays at customs and delays in transporting goods from Iranian trucks to Afghan trucks will decrease,” he added.

According to Salimi, Iran’s exports to Afghanistan are estimated to reach $2.7 billion by the end of the current Persian year in March 2021.

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