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Afghanistan and Iran usher in new trade chapter after railway link inaugurated



(Last Updated On: December 10, 2020)

The Herat-Khawaf railway line, a major infrastructural project between Afghanistan and Iran, was officially inaugurated in the presence of the presidents of both countries, via video link, on Thursday.

For Afghanistan this was an historic moment as the railway line will open a new chapter in trade not only with Iran but also with other regional countries, Europe and the rest of the world.

The railway link is seen as an important step in regional cooperation, in addition to being a way to strengthen economic ties and relations between Afghanistan and Iran.

In his speech, President Ashraf Ghani said he had hoped to attend the inauguration in person but due to COVID-19 restrictions he was not able to.

Ghani said however that the railway line was a critically important project, not only for Afghanistan and Iran but also for the region and beyond.

“The opening of the Khawaf-Herat railway is a great step for the development and economic leap of Iran and Afghanistan,” Ghani said.

He said railway transport is the most efficient, important and cheapest means of transporting goods in Asia.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in turn said the opening of the Khawaf-Herat railway line strengthens Afghanistan-Iran ties.

Rouhani said that through this railway link, Afghanistan will be connected to European countries.

“With the Herat-Khawaf railway line, Afghanistan will be connected to European countries and also soon will be connected to the Chabahar railway line,” Rouhani added.

Atta Nasib, Head of Afghanistan Investment Facilitation Unit said that this will help turn Afghanistan into a transit hub.

“This railway between Afghanistan and Iran is a major economic and strategic achievement for both countries, which will connect us to European countries,” said Nasib.

Yamma Shams, General Director of Afghanistan Railway Authority said that it is estimated that eventually Khawaf-Herat railway line will carry 1,600 passengers a day.

The railway line cost $100 million dollars to build and currently spans 130 km in total – 70 km in Iran and 60 km in Afghanistan.

This railway line is strategically important as it gives Afghanistan easy access to Iranian ports at Chabahar and Bandar Abbas, as it connects into Iran’s existing railway grid.

Construction of the railway began in April 2007 and was due to finish in 2009, but was delayed.

However, last week a trial run was held and the first consignment of goods imported from Iran, including 500 tons of cement, successfully arrived in the country.

According to the reports Iran’s exports to Afghanistan are projected to reach $2.7 billion by March next year.


Saffron producers appeal for global exports to resume



(Last Updated On: October 23, 2021)

Afghanistan’s Saffron Producers Union on Saturday called on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) to help restart the saffron production and export sector, which came to a grinding halt due to the coronavirus pandemic and the change in government.

Officials from the union said that unless something is done to restart business, the saffron industry could collapse.

They said that now, without commercial cargo flights into Afghanistan, their international market flow has dried up.

“We had products, but stopped because of COVID-19. Our products and exports have been stopped. If there is no [export] corridor for us saffron production will be stopped,” said Abdul Basir Azimi, an exporter of saffron.

Officials of the Chamber of Agriculture and Livestock meanwhile called on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) to find a market for domestic products.

“Our saffron was ranked number one in the world several times, but now faces problems. Export environment should be provided for saffron,” said Mirwais Hajizada, deputy head of the chamber.

Economic analysts meanwhile urged the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL)

to support the export of domestic products.

“We have seen that some of our products have a special place in global markets, and have many customers in the world. Now the market for products has disappeared. The basic problems should be solved,” said Saeed-ur-Rahman Imran, an economic analyst.

Afghanistan’s saffron is a valuable revenue generator for the country and the industry employs hundreds of thousands of workers directly and indirectly.

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Rising wood prices a cause for concern in Kabul as winter looms



(Last Updated On: October 21, 2021)

Kabul residents on Thursday raised concerns about rising prices of heating materials as people started shopping to prepare for winter.

During the winter, Afghan families typically keep warm by using a wood-burning bukhari, a drum-shaped stove made of thin metal, or a pit of burning coal under a small table covered by a heavy blanket.

Kabul resident Abdul Khaleq Hashemi urged the new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) government to bring prices under control.

“The flour, rice, and oil taxes are in the control of the Taliban (IEA) and they should all have a certain fixed price. Same for wood, it should have a certain fixed price, and this issue should be brought under control. It is not right for everyone to sell wood at any price they want,” he said.

Facing an economic crisis as winter approaches, IEA officials appealed to the international community to release frozen assets of more than $9 billion and increase shipments of humanitarian relief as the nation faces an economic crisis.

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IEA won’t be allowed access to Afghan central bank reserves: US



(Last Updated On: October 20, 2021)

Deputy U.S. Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo on Tuesday said he sees no situation where the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) who regained power in Afghanistan in August, would be allowed access to Afghan central bank reserves, which are largely held in the United States.

The IEA have called for the United States to lift a block on more than $9 billion of Afghan central bank reserves held outside the country as the government struggles to contain a deepening economic crisis.

“We believe that it’s essential that we maintain our sanctions against the Taliban (IEA) but at the same time find ways for legitimate humanitarian assistance to get to the Afghan people. That’s exactly what we’re doing,” Adeyemo told the Senate Banking Committee.

The IEA took back power in Afghanistan in August after the United States pulled out its troops, almost 20 years after the IEA were ousted by U.S.-led forces following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Washington and other Western countries are grappling with difficult choices as a severe humanitarian crisis looms large in Afghanistan. They are trying to work out how to engage with the IEA without granting them the legitimacy they seek, while ensuring humanitarian aid flows into the country.

“Our goal is to make sure that we are implementing our sanctions regime against the Taliban (IEA) and the Haqqani network, but at the same time allowing for the permissible flow of humanitarian assistance into the country,” Adeyemo said.

The Haqqani network is a group affiliated with the IEA based near the border with Pakistan and blamed for some of the worst suicide attacks of the war.

Adeyemo said the Treasury was taking every step it could within its sanctions regime to make clear to humanitarian groups that Washington wants to facilitate the flow of aid to the Afghan people, but warned that for humanitarian assistance to flow, the IEA have to allow it to happen within the country.

The Treasury last month further paved the way for aid to flow to Afghanistan despite U.S. sanctions on the IEA when it issued two general licenses.

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