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China to Provide Uzbekistan $350M for Crucial Rail Tunnel

30 November 2013

China signed a deal with Uzbekistan on Friday to provide $350 million for construction of a railway tunnel linking the Central Asian nation's populous Ferghana Valley with the rest of the country, APA reports quoting RIA Novosti.

The loan deal was one of several agreements signed during a visit to Uzbekistan by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

Preparatory work for construction of the railway, which will join the industrial city of Angren to the Ferghana Valley town of Pap, began earlier this year.

After completion, due in July 2016, Uzbekistan will be able to dispense with existing railway connections through the neighboring state of Tajikistan, with which it has tense relations.

Uzbekistan Railways and China Railway Tunnel Group signed a contract in June to build the 19-kilometer (12 mile) tunnel, which will pass under the 2,200-meter (6,670-foot) Kamchik Pass that divides the country.

The tunnel is set to cost some $455 million and require around 500 laborers and technicians to build.

Expected expenditure for the Angren-Pap line stands at $1.9 billion. Funding is being sourced from international financial institutions and the Uzbekistan government.

The Ferghana Valley, Uzbekistan's agricultural heartland, occupies a small fraction of the country territorially, but is home to almost a quarter of its population of 29 million. The only direct link between the Ferghana Valley and the remainder of Uzbekistan, which includes the capital, Tashkent, is a winding and often broken road.

Other deals signed Friday included a commitment by the China Development Bank to provide Uzbekistan's Uzpromstroybank with $10 million in credit.

The countries also agreed on a $40 million program to develop small businesses in Uzbekistan.