China's Belt and Road Initiative key to boosting Afghan economy: official

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KABUL, March 29 (Xinhua) -- China's Belt and Road Initiative can play an important role in boosting economy of Afghanistanand the countries at the region at large, Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai said on Wednesday.

"The Belt and Road Initiative is a very important project on the record in Afghanistan," Karzai told a seminar held in the Afghan Foreign Ministry.

"Giving its location as a natural land, which is connecting Central Asia to South Asia and China to Middle East, Afghanistan has a good position to contribute significantly to this initiative, including realization of transport corridors between China, Central Asia, Middle East and Europe," he said.

He said that "in the meantime, Afghanistan can benefit from opportunities that are provided for wider Central Asia, Eurasia region," based in the initiative.

The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative, proposed by China in 2013, aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes.

The senior Afghan diplomat also noted that "the momentum that this initiative has created and the subsequent Memorandum of Understanding on the Belt and Road Initiative signed between foreign ministers of China and Afghanistan last May aimed to promote in areas such as policy coordination, connectivity, and infrastructure development, trade and investment facilitation, financial cooperation and people-to-people contact."

The two neighboring countries have been cooperating under the initiative in a number of projects. In September, the first cargo train from China arrived in a key northern Afghan port city, and in July last year, direct flight between the Afghan capital of Kabul and Urumqi in China's northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region was resumed.

"Cooperation of the freight train between China and Afghanistan and resumption of direct flights between Kabul and Urumqi are two good examples of practical progress, which can contribute to trade expansion and business-to-business partnership between the two countries and can further facilitate the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative," Karzai said.

"I would also like to stress the importance of joint research, academic exchange and knowledge sharing, professional training and capacity building between Afghanistan, China and countries along the Belt and Road Initiative in the line with the common priorities," he said.

Among the other Afghan and Chinese officials attending the event, were Afghan Chief Presidential Adviser Mohammad Humayon Qayoumi and Chinese Ambassador to Afghanistan Yao Jing.

"The Belt and Road Initiative has five major roles, to promote policy coordination, facilitate connectivity, promote unimpeded trade and promote financial inauguration and more people-to-people advance in these areas," Qayoumi said.

The seminar also focused on ways to strengthen the connection between the development strategies of Afghanistan and China, enhancing connectivity among the two countries and other regional countries as well as boosting trade and investment cooperation between Afghanistan and China under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, according to Qayoumi.

Ambassador Yao said the Belt and Road Initiative will promote common development and that China is willing to continue enhancing cooperation with all the countries in the region.

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