Trade corridor from Afghanistan to Turkey inaugurated
KABUL – Anadolu Agency
A landmark transport corridor was inaugurated on Dec. 13 linking landlocked Afghanistan with Turkey for trade via Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.
The Lapis Lazuli project makes Afghanistan “not only the gateway to the Indian subcontinent, but once again the gateway to the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Europe,” Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan's president, told a ceremony in the western city of Herat.
After decades of isolation, he added, “today Afghanistan is reaching out. Afghans are people of connectivity, not separation.”
He also thanked the Turkish, Turkmen, Azeri, and Georgian leadership for their support in making the project a reality.
Speaking at the occasion, Turkey's Ambassador to Afghanistan, Oğuzhan Ertuğrul, said the corridor - made mostly of rail and highways - would not only boost regional trade, but also help promote peace in Afghanistan. He added that Ankara hopes to further promote ties with Kabul, and pledged support for Afghanistan in various sectors.
Beginning in Afghanistan's northern Faryab province and Turqundi in Herat, the corridor continues to Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan and after crossing the Caspian Sea, links to the Azerbaijani capital Baku to Tbilisi and Georgia's Black Sea ports of Batumi and Poti.
After connecting with Kars in eastern Turkey, it proceeds to Istanbul and ends in Europe.
The corridor connects with Turkey's Middle Corridor Project (East-West Trans-Caspian Trade and Transport Corridor) and complements other regional transport corridors, such as the Five Nations Railway Corridor.
The first consignment, carrying cotton, raisins, sesame seeds and dry fruit, today embarked on the rail route through Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Balkans.
Named after Afghanistan's precious gemstone, the Lapis Lazuli Route agreement was signed last year in Turkmenistan.