First U.S. Supplies to Leave Latvia

The Moscow Times
February 19, 2009

RIGA, Latvia — A first shipment of nonlethal goods to U.S. forces in Afghanistan is to leave soon from Latvia, an official said Wednesday, as Washington seeks new supply routes in response to the closure of a base in Kyrgyzstan.

Estonia said its ports could also be used for such traffic.

The United States needs alternative routes to supply its forces as Kyrgyzstan’s parliament is to vote on Thursday on closing the Manas air base outside the capital, Bishkek. One possible option is to ship supplies by train from Riga, the Latvian capital.

“It is nonlethal commercial goods,” said a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Latvia.

He said the shipment, of 100 containers, would leave “in the near future.”

The embassy said 20 to 30 trainloads per week could go from Latvia to Afghanistan if the route proved a success.

“I think this is a very important project, supplying American troops fulfilling their mission in Afghanistan,” Latvian Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins told reporters after talks with his Estonian counterpart, Urmas Paet.

Paet said Estonia could send such shipments too.

An official at the container terminal at the Riga port said the shipment would leave very soon but declined to give further details, as it was a military cargo. He said the route would go via Russia and then through Central Asia.