Ashgabat route launched as Turkmenistan tightens ties with Latvia

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Turkmenistan soon plans to open an embassy in Latvia, Turkmen government officials and Latvia’s Ambassador to Turkmenistan Igors Apokins told the press after the official launch of Turkmenistan Airlines’ new Ashgabat-Riga flights Friday.

Transport Ministry Deputy State Secretary Uldis Reimanis, who also heads the Transport Group of the two countries’ bilateral intergovernmental commission, said there will be a task force meeting on road transport agreements and further ideas on cooperation in the development of rail, sea and air transport.

Reimanis also said there was interest among the Turkmen representatives in the study programs at Latvia’s universities and higher education institutes that are open to foreign students, especially the Latvian Maritime Academy.

With the launch of the new weekly flights between Riga and Ashgabat, Latvians and world travelers have an opportunity to vacation by the Caspian Sea, where Turkmenistan has developed new hotel complexes. The port town of Turkmenbashi touts various entertainments and recreations, including boating and scuba diving, with several golf courses planned to open there in the near future.

Later this year Turkmenistan Airlines plans to connect through Riga with a trans-Atlantic flight to Toronto, with the new route being the first stage of this master plan to link to Canada and the rest of North America. The move follows an overall upgrade to its fleet, including this route's new Boeing 737-700 aircraft. However, Canadian authorities have yet to approve the proposed opening of the new route, though Turkmenistan Airlines officials remain hopeful a favorable decision is pending.

Riga International Airport (RIX) board chairman Andris Liepins at the event opening the new route from the airport on Friday said that "the new route opens an opportunity for the Riga and Ashgabat airports to access new passenger transportation markets which is a serious precondition for increase of the number of travelers. This is a new offer for transit passengers who might save time and resources on the way to Ashgabat, continuing their trip to the Asian countries and China. In turn, travelers to Riga might use the opportunities to fly to Western Europe and Scandinavia," said Liepins.

Turkmenbashi, incidentally, is where the remains of Latvia's authoritarian leader Kārlis Ulmanis were interred by Soviet authorities upon his death in forced exile.

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