TASHKENT, June 22, 2016 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Uzbek President Islam Karimov attend the inauguration ceremony as they watch via video link the opening of Qamchiq Tunnel, part of the Angren-Pap railway line, in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, June 22, 2016. (Xinhua/Li Tao)
TASHKENT, June 22 (Xinhua) -- Visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, on Wednesday hailed the inauguration of the Qamchiq Tunnel in Uzbekistan, saying it is a major achievement of the Belt and Road Initiative.
The two leaders watched via video link the opening of the 19.2-km railway tunnel, which is part of the Angren-Pap railway line that connects Tashkent and Namangan. They also extended their congratulations.
Built by the China Railway Tunnel Group, the tunnel goes through Qurama Mountains and is the longest of its kind in Central Asia. Construction on the project began in 2013 and was completed in February this year.
"It is a major achievement of the Belt and Road Initiative that China and Uzbekistan are jointly promoting, and also a new link of friendship and cooperation connecting the peoples of both countries," Xi said.
He said that land transport connectivity is an important part of the Belt and Road Initiative and a key area in China-Uzbekistan cooperation.
"China is willing to strengthen cooperation with Uzbekistan to constantly improve the connectivity of the infrastructure in the region, thus creating more favorable environment for the development of our two countries and bringing greater benefits to both peoples," he said.
The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by Xi in 2013, refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It is a development initiative aimed at boosting trade and investment cooperation primarily through enhancing infrastructure connectivity.
Karimov said the inauguration of the railway tunnel is a major event in the economic and social development of Uzbekistan, which greatly benefits the Uzbek people. He expressed gratitude to China for its assistance.
Also on Wednesday, Xi offered flowers at the monument on the Independence Square in the center of Tashkent.
The Chinese president arrived in Uzbekistan for a state visit on Tuesday. It is the third and final stop of Xi's three-nation tour, which has also taken him to Serbia and Poland.