Ambassador Karl Eikenberry was in a lease-signing ceremony last Wednesday for the US Consulate in Herat, in western Afghanistan. The event was attended by Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta . According to Wikipedia, Herat is the third largest city of Afghanistan, and the gateway to Iran, collecting the highest amount of customs revenue for Afghanistan. The country shares a 936 km border with Iran.
Excerpted from Ambassador’s Eikenberry remarks during the ceremony:
There are few occasions more important and symbolic in the friendship of nations than for a U.S. Ambassador to be able to stand before you and announce with great pride, as I do today, that the U.S. Government is establishing a Consulate in "Shahr-e Bostan Herat" – this ancient, wonderful city of Herat.
When the U.S. Government first considered its options for opening Consulates, there was never any doubt that the ancient crossroad of Herat would be one of the cities selected for extending U.S. representation within Afghanistan. […] Since last spring, when we first identified properties that might serve as a future U.S. Consulate, the 5-Star Hotel property literally stood out as the most logical and usable space to lease until we could buy land and build a more permanent Consulate compound.
Signing this lease today brings us one big step closer to opening the Consulate in Herat.
Let everyone understand: Our aim in Afghanistan and in establishing U.S. Consulate Heart is to promote peace and security, prosperity and stability. […] Our history and experience of diplomatic relations with many countries shows that our diplomatic presence brings economic opportunity for many as it promotes stronger governance and rule of law to all. We are a country founded on such principles and values. Opening Consulate Herat is a tangible reflection of our commitment to such common interests.
This ceremony, following as it does upon the signing ceremony several weeks ago for the lease of land permitting the opening of another U.S. consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif next year, affirms America’s enduring friendship with Afghanistan and its people.
Read the full remarks here.
It looks like no western media covered this event. China’s Xinhua and People's Daily Online did have brief reports on this on Wednesday including the foreign minister’s remarks: “Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta noted that the opening of the U.S. consulate will not affect the relations between Kabul and Tehran.”
From best I could tell, there is only one 5-Star Hotel in Herat, which is the 5-Star Hotel of Heart. Here is a photo of the hotel from Flickr, with the user’s comments: “I think the 5-Star part is more self-proclamation and naming than the official prestige category bestowed on hotels. Still this is probably one of the best hotels in Afghanistan, and doubtlessly the best outside Kabul.”
From Wikitravel’s entry: “Five Star Hotel, (North east of downtown - every taxi driver knows where it is). A favorite with NGO workers and expats the Five Star hotel is a comfortable western style place. A good option if you have your own transport, otherwise you are at the mercy of overcharging taxi drivers. $50 per night.”