Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 47

On an official tour of the Central Asian countries, Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati has invited their presidents to attend the upcoming opening of the Siraks-Tedjen-Mashhad railroad linking Turkmenistan and Iran. To be hosted by the two countries’ presidents, Saparmurad Niazov and Hashemi Rafsanjani, the opening is timed to coincide with the summit meeting in Turkmenistan of the Economic Cooperation Organization comprised of the five Central Asian countries, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The new railroad connects the Central Asian rail network to that of Iran and Turkey, opening up access for Central Asian exports to Persian Gulf and Mediterranean ports and enabling Middle Eastern and western goods to penetrate Central Asian markets. The new rail link is a key element in the Transasian railroad which will shortly connect Turkey to China via Central Asia. Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev described the connection as "opening the Great Silk Road to rail traffic." The event underscores Iran’s potential significance as a lifeline for Central Asian trade, enabling the five countries to escape Russian control of their trade with the outside world. (13)

Latvia, Estonia Moving to Defuse Maritime Dispute.