The first shipment of Iranian products arrived this week in Afghanistan via a new $75 million railroad that links Iran’s eastern city of Khaf to Herat.
This week’s shipment was dispatched as a trial run to detect possible problems on the route, Iranian media reports stated.
Construction of the railway began in April 2007 and was due to finish in 2009, but was delayed.“The first consignment of goods imported from Iran which included 500 tonnes of cement entered the country [Afghanistan] via the Herat-Khaf railway,” an Afghan official from Herat said.
The 130 km long Khaf-Herat railway is strategically important as it gives Afghanistan easy access to Iranian ports at Chabahar and Bandar Abbas.
According to the Afghanistan Railway Authority, the railway forms one of its most important regional connectivity projects, as it will provide the land-locked country with a link to Iranian ports and rail networks, Turkey, and Europe, Iranian media stated.
Freight traffic is predicted to be around two million tonnes a year, with imports to include oil, construction materials, and food and exports to include grain, dried fruit, plants and medical items.
The operation of a passenger service via this railway is also being considered. According to initial studies, passenger traffic could reach 321,000 passengers in a year.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that “while the Khaf-Herat railway is to be inaugurated in the coming days as a symbol of great cooperation between the two countries, it is inevitable to take care of the suspicious actions of the ill-wishers of our relations [between Tehran and Kabul]”.
Mehr news agency reported that Iran’s exports to Afghanistan are projected to reach $2.7 billion by March next year.
IEA urge Afghan businessmen, investors abroad to return home
Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, and his delegation met with a number of Afghan businessmen in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of them returning home.
According to Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Mullah Baradar told the Afghan businessmen: “Whatever you are interested in investing in the country, the Islamic Emirate is fully committed to providing opportunities for you.”
At the meeting, Mullah Baradar told the businessmen and investors, it is the IEA’s responsibility to provide a safe space for investors and businessmen and ask them to help rebuild the country.
“It is our responsibility to create a safe space for you and your businesses and to rebuild this country together.
“Fortunately, with the coming of the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan, corruption has been eradicated,” he said.
The Deputy Prime Minister for economic affairs also thanked all those countries that host Afghans.
Cotton factories ‘owed’ $30 million by Pakistan: Kandahar Chamber
Owners of cotton processing factories in Kandahar said this week that Pakistan is holding back about $30 million dollars owed to the sector in a bid to put them out of business.
According to Sayed Sarwar Amani, the head of the Kandahar Chamber of Commerce and Industries, due to restrictions on banking, Pakistan has failed to pay about $30 million owed to factories in the province.
“Our banking system is defective, we have problems, the banking remittances are closed, especially Pakistan is using this unfairly, it means that a lot of money from our cotton sector which is about $30 million is blocked in Pakistan.
“I can say that they are not paying us the money of 24 factories by referral nor through the banking system nor by TT (telegraphic transfer),” Amani said.
There are 24 cotton processing factories in Kandahar which processed approximately 400,000 tons of cotton last year.
However, due to the challenges faced by the sector, this has dropped to only about 200,000 tons this year.
Chamber officials said Pakistan is trying to create problems for the owners of these factories in order to put them out of business.
Factory owners meanwhile said that a shortage of electricity to their industrial parks was also a major challenge.
Yar Mohammad Rahmani, the owner of one cotton factory, said: “Our main problem is electricity, before the coming of the Islamic Emirate we used to have generators here with 10-Megawatt electricity but we don’t have that now; now we are using solar power and (electricity generated from) Kajaki Dam,” he said adding that factories in the industrial plant got electricity only on alternate days.
Power “is provided one day to the north side of the park and one day to the south, I can say that electricity is our main problem,” he said.
Afghanistan looking to get oil, gas from Russia; hoping to send dry fruits to Moscow
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has shown interest in buying oil and gas from Russia and continuing work on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project.
Pakistan’s Business Standard reported that this comes after Russian energy giants like Gazprom have been hit by sanctions from the Western countries.
However, Jamal Nasir Garwal, the IEA’s charge d’affaires in Moscow, has reaffirmed Afghanistan’s ambition of developing the energy partnership with Russia.
“Yes, we are negotiating in the sphere of business and finance. We are determined and very much want to develop economic cooperation with Russia so that there is progress in relations.
“As for specific areas, we are interested in purchasing fuel and gas, these are the most important areas at the moment, what our country needs in the first place,” said Garwal in an interview with Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti.
The Afghan charge d’affaires said the IEA government is relying on Russia to restore the infrastructure, build buildings, roads and other necessary facilities because it had helped Afghanistan in the past.
The negotiations, he said, are currently underway through the Ministries of Trade of Russia and Afghanistan as Kabul remains “determined” to sign specific agreements soon, Business Standard reported.
“We also want our dried fruits and other agricultural products to be delivered to Russia, we are interested in developing this direction. While we have not determined the specific details, but we are negotiating for the future. At the same time, we are not talking about some kind of barter,” Garwal said.
He also said the top leadership in Kabul remains keen to continue the work on the TAPI project, which has already seen more lows than highs since the first TAPI summit held in Ashgabat in December 2010.
With a total length of nearly 1814 km — 214 km of which falls in Turkmenistan, 774 km through Afghanistan, and 826 km in the territory of Pakistan before reaching Fazilka in India’s Punjab — the mega gas pipeline project would connect Turkmenistan, one of the largest energy suppliers in the world, with the South Asian countries.
“Negotiations are underway so that our cooperation within the framework of the project continues… Most importantly, we are very pleased with the security situation: the threats that were before are gone,” said Garwal.
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