DUSHANBE, January 18, 2012, Asia-Plus  -- Delaying the resumption of rail traffic along the Tajik-Uzbek border is nothing more than rail blockade, Vladimir Sobkalov, the first deputy head of Tajik Railways, remarked at a news conference in Dushanbe on January 18.

According to him, “this rail blockade is a political act.”

We will recall that the mid-November explosion at a rail bridge severed southern Tajikistan''s rail connection to the outside world.  After a few days of silence, state-controlled Uzbek media characterized the event as a “terrorist act.”  Subsequently, outside observers began casting doubt on Tashkent’s claim, with some asserting that Uzbekistan may have sabotaged its own railway in a twisted attempt to economically punish Tajikistan.

Since the incident, the Uzbek authorities have refused Dushanbe’s offers of assistance to repair the bridge.   They likewise haven''t commented on when the bridge will become operational again. 

Tajik Railways officials say they do not know when Uzbekistan will lift “the rail blockade.”

Representatives from Tajik state rail company note that 298 freight cars with goods bound for the southern Tajik province of Khatlon are currently unable to leave Uzbek territory.  “72 of those freight cars are loaded with wheat flour, 26 are loaded with wheat, 25 cars are carrying cement, 26 cars are carrying fuels, eight cars are loaded with jet engine fuel, three cars are loaded with diesel fuel, eight cars are carrying liquefied gas and 56 other cars are full of other goods,” Tajik rail officials said.