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Turkmenistan, Afghanistan inaugurate rail link

Spectators awaited the departure of the train from the Imamnazar station in Turkmenistan.
Spectators awaited the departure of the train from the Imamnazar station in Turkmenistan.Marat Gurt/Reuters

IMAMNAZAR STATION, Turkmenistan — The presidents of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan on Monday officially opened a railroad that will link the oil-rich former Soviet republic with Afghanistan.

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and his Afghan counterpart, Ashraf Ghani, put on white work mittens at the Imamnazar station on the Turkmen side of the border on Monday to tighten the screw on a rail at the platform which was covered with expensive Turkmen carpets for the ceremony.

The railroad will bring Turkmen goods to Afghanistan, and the first freight train has departed, carrying grain, flour, and some construction materials.

‘‘The launch of the new road presents significant opportunities for Afghanistan, Tajikistan, China, India, Pakistan, and the Pacific region and creates favorable conditions for increasing freight traffic all the way onto Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, Azerbaijan, and Europe,’’ Berdymukhamedov said at the ceremony.


Ghani hailed the railroad as ‘‘a dream of the Afghan people coming true.’’

The presidents also formally opened an oil terminal on the border.

Turkmenistan’s ambition is to extend the 88-kilometer railroad further east to Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and then onward to China. Two years earlier, Turkmenistan inaugurated a railroad that linked another former Soviet republic, oil-rich Kazakhstan, with the Persian Gulf via Iran.