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Uzbekistan Seeks Eventual Sea Access With Afghan Railway Deal

FILE - Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is pictured in Moscow, April 5, 2017. His office said Dec. 5, 2017, that he and the visiting Afghan president had signed a railway extension deal.

Uzbekistan and Afghanistan signed an agreement Tuesday to extend a railroad connecting the two countries in a move that may eventually give Uzbekistan a direct link to seaports.

Landlocked Uzbekistan's access to marine shipping is very limited.

In 2011, the Uzbek state railway company, Ozbekiston Temir Yollari, built a short link between Hairatan, a town on the Uzbek-Afghan border, and Mazar-i-Sharif, a major city in northern Afghanistan.

Tashkent has since expressed interest in extending that line to Herat, another Afghan city in the northwest, and a gateway to Iran.

Another link, already under construction, will connect Herat to Iran, which may eventually enable Uzbekistan to send cargoes to and from its Persian Gulf ports.

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev's office said in a statement that he and visiting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had signed an agreement on the construction of the Mazar-i-Sharif-Herat railroad. It provided no details, such as cost and funding.

The original, short link was almost fully financed by the Asian Development Bank, which has also financed studies for the expansion project.

Mirziyoyev and Ghani also signed 20 other deals, including an agreement on the construction of a new electric power line and deals for supplies of Uzbek agricultural products, medicines and other goods to Afghanistan.