China has flagged off its first direct freight train to Iran from the trading hub of Yiwu in what is seen as the groundbreaking initiative to get Beijing’s ambitious New Silk Road connectivity project off the ground.
The train that set off on Thursday is the first regular container train linking China to the Middle East. It will cover a journey of 10,399 km in its maiden journey to West Asia in14 days.
After leaving China through the northwestern province of Xinjiang, it will pass through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan before heading for the Iranian capital.
Yiwu is already connected by trains that head for Duisburg in Germany and Madrid.
In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping introduced the new “Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Maritime Silk Road” initiative to connect stronger logistics networks with Asia, Africa and Europe by building more roads, railways and airports.
Beijing has launched the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) with $100 billion in capital and the New Silk Road Fund with a capital of $40 billion to fund major infrastructure projects in the region, including those pertaining to the development of the New Silk Road.
Iran is strategically-located in the Middle East, sharing land borders with 15 nations, and sea channels on its northern and southwestern coasts. China sees Iran as a country that can play a crucial role in China’s New Silk Road initiative given its access to extensive delivery routes connecting to the Middle East and Eurasia.
Tehran has already pledged to support the New Silk Road initiative with an investment of $6 billion for the next six years, the Chinese media have reported.