The presidents of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Iran attended the inauguration of a railway that will connect the three countries and serve as an additional conduit to the Persian Gulf. The ceremony took place in the Turkmen frontier village of Ak-Yayla, and marked the beginning of operations of the nearly 930 kilometer (578 mile) route. The completion of the regional railway is significant because it will allow China and Central Asian countries much quicker access to prominent Persian Gulf shipping lanes, and which ultimately lead to Asian and Middle Eastern markets. Freight currently originating in China takes more than three weeks to arrive in Iran, though the new railway network will shorten the transport times to just under two weeks.
The inauguration of the railway concludes more than seven years of negotiations, construction and finishing touches made to the regional transport network. The three countries have outlined plans by which they hope to augment interregional trade and economic cooperation. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani labeled the deal “just a beginning,” pointing to strong relations between Iran and Turkmenistan in the energy and packaged goods sectors, and with Kazakhstan in the energy sector, as evidence.
The new line, which forms part of the much-lauded North-South corridor, will link up to Iran’s national rail network and transport goods to the Persian Gulf.
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- Iranian Member of Parliament Ali Motahari openly criticized Iran’s Assembly of Experts, the oversight body responsible for governing the actions of Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamanei. The criticism was doled out due to the fact that the leaders of Iran’s Green Movement remain under house arrest more than four years after the group took to the streets. Motahari accused the Assembly of Experts of negligence and of intentionally looking the other way in matters related to the ayatollah.
- Ukrainian Energy Minister Volodymyr Demchyshyn stated that a recent “accident” that took place near the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant in southeastern Ukraine poses no threat to the country. The accident, which occurred this past Friday but which went largely unreported until yesterday, was apparently caused by short circuits in the reactor’s power system. Demchyshyn insisted that “there is no threat” or “problem with the reactors,” and that the reactor will return to operation on Friday, December 5. French public nuclear safety institute IRSN reported that no “unusual radioactivity” was detected in Ukraine up until now.
- Iran’s judiciary sentenced well known Iranian blogger Soheil Arabi to death for a series of comments he posted on Facebook. Arabi is charged of “corruption on Earth,” an ambiguous charge that in this case stems from an alleged insult of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed. Requests to re-review the case have been made, though the ruling judge has insisted that at this stage “there is no pardon” available.
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