Cablegate: Central Asian North-South Railway Line: A Lot Of
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ
RUEHPW RUEHROV RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHAH #0077 0151158
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 151158Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0080
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 3256
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 1071
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0942
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 1519
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 2120
UNCLAS ASHGABAT 000077
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, EEB
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON ELTN IR KZ TX
SUBJECT: CENTRAL ASIAN NORTH-SOUTH RAILWAY LINE: A LOT OF
HOPE, NOT A LOT OF PLANNING
REF: 07 ASHGABAT 1393
1. (U) Sensitive but unclassified. Not for public Internet.
GREAT HOPES RESTING ON NORTH-SOUTH LINE
2. (SBU) Head of the Ministry of Railway Transportation
International Affairs Department Annamurat Horantsanliyev met
january 7 with EconOff to discuss the
Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran North-South railway line.
Horantsanliyev is coordinating Turkmenistan's construction of
the new railway line. He explained the North-South line is
an important project for Central Asian countries because a
railway line with direct links to Iran or Turkey is the only
option for Central Asian countries interested in expanding
their trade routes to Europe. He added that Kazakhstan,
Turkmenistan, and Iran would soon hold discussions on matters
such as monthly cargo capacity, limitations, and predictions.
The countries will also discuss track gauge. (NOTE: The
new North-South line will transport passengers and cargo.
Currently, Turkmen trains to Iran transport only cargo. To
travel within Iran, on a different size gauge, Turkmen
trailers must be lifted by cranes onto the Iranian tracks in
a multi-hour process. END NOTE.) So far, the three
countries have not decided on a meeting place or time,
although Horantsanliyev said that they would schedule
meetings "perhaps this month." Horantsanliyev claimed that
the European mass media features the North-South line on the
"WE'LL SEE WHAT IRAN OFFERS, AND WE'LL LISTEN TO ALL OFFERS"
3. (SBU) Horantsanliyev said, "We will see what they
(Iranian officials) offer, and we'll listen to all offers.
It's possible that the Ministry of Railroad Transportation
will build it itself." He aded Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan,
and Iran will discuss all construction aspects of the project
at the upcoming meeting as well. Horantsanliyev said that
the Government of Turkmenistan already announced tenders for
the purchase of construction materials.
4. (SBU) COMMENT: The Government of Turkmenistan has great
hopes that the North-South railway line crossing Kazakhstan,
Turkmenistan, and Iran will increase economic activity.
However, the three countries still have many barriers to
overcome before construction can commence. It appears that
they announced construction before they came to agreement on
important details, such as cargo capacity and track gauge.
Given the potential for protracted negotiation between the
neighbors (especially between Iran and Turkmenistan, which
are currently engaged in an increasingly noisy gas price war
-- see septel), this may not be a simple matter. END COMMENT.