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China Promotes Regional Cooperation to Revitalize Silk Road

China will launch a new regional program involving four central Asian countries to rejuvenate the Silk Road, a representative from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) said in Beijing Thursday.

The program will introduce a Silk Road Mayors Forum, the Silk Road multiple entry visa and awarding the title of UN Silk Road City, Khalid Malik, resident representative in China, said.

The two-year "Silk Road Project" involves the UN, the governments of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Stretching over 7,000 kilometers, the ancient Silk Road snakes from Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province, through central Asia and ends in Rome.

"With a total fund of  US$ 1 million , this project represents a strategic follow-up phase of an earlier UNDP program Silk Road Area Development - Phase I," said Malik.

The fund is only the catalyst for the reviving of the road, and more countries, such as Japan, Turkey and Russia, are encouraged to join the effort.

According to Malik, the first phase of the Silk Road Area Development project will focus on changing policies and tariff. Currently, though, the UN is working just to establish partnerships and conversation mechanisms between China and countries from central Asia.

Fikret Akrura, UNDP resident representative in Uzbekistan, said the Silk Road Project is not an "isolated effort."

"Central Asia's ability to integrate into the international economic system is seen increasingly, in terms of its ability to expand levels of inter-regional and intra-regional economic cooperation," Akrura said.

Responding to the questions of illegal immigration and regional security issues associated to the Silk Road Project, Malik said that the multiple entry visa is an attempt to "increase possibilities" of economic development.

"From our own experience, where there is peace and prosperity, terrorism subsides," said Malik. "Regional cooperation is a key to help meet the Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty and promoting growth and equality."

(Xinhua News Agency February 18, 2005)


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