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China Is Going To Build Railway Bypassing Belarus

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China Is Going To Build Railway Bypassing Belarus

Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have agreed with Beijing.

Two former Soviet republics in Central Asia — Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan — have agreed with China on the construction of a railway to Europe, which will bypass Russia and Belarus, writes The Moscow Times.

The agreement on the project, which Beijing, Bishkek and Tashkent have been discussing for 27 years, was signed by the parties on June 6 in Beijing, and construction is due to begin in October. The 450–500 km railway will be part of China's global Belt and Road Initiative.

"Experts note that the annual volume of cargo transportation will reach 15 million tons, and the delivery time to end consumers will be reduced by 7 days. In addition, modern transit and logistics infrastructure, warehouses and terminals will be created," said President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

The road will run from Kashgar in China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region through Torugart, Makmal and Jalal-Abad in Kyrgyzstan to Andijan in Uzbekistan. Further, the highway will connect with the roads of other Central Asian countries, from where cargo will go to the Caspian Sea, to Turkey and to Europe.

On June 19, the Kyrgyz parliament, through which the main part of the route will pass, ratified an agreement with China and Uzbekistan on the construction of the road. A joint project company (JPC) will be established between the countries to lay the Kyrgyz section of the highway. China will own 51% of it, and Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan will each own 24.5%.

At the same time, Kyrgyzstan will make a separate investment agreement with the JPC, which will build the road and will operate it until it returns the investment. It is not officially reported for how long the JPC will use the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway. The construction will be handled directly by China Railway International. The cost of the project is estimated at about $8 billion.

"It should be noted that the railway connects China and the countries of Central Asia, and also opens the way for new transport routes to Europe and the Gulf States. This will undoubtedly have a positive impact on trade and economic cooperation between our countries," said Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov. He estimated the potential income of the republic from the work of the railway at $200 million per year.

So far, cargo from China to Europe has been transported by rail through Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus. However, since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, some companies have stopped using Russian territory for transit, noted the Washington think tank Jamestown Foundation.

"For China, another way of entering the West and the East is important, except for Russia. The route through Russia is no longer safe. The road to Europe may be suddenly closed, as before. Therefore, it is very important for China to explore a new path," says Davide Cancarini, an expert on Central Asia.

Russia is "not happy" with this project, but it cannot openly oppose it, says Alisher Ilkhamov, director of the Central Asia Due Diligence think tank in London. “Otherwise, it will go into conflict with China. Now China is an ally defending Russia. Therefore, there is not much enthusiasm in Moscow," Ilkhamov concluded.

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