By Leman Mammadova
Afghanistan is preparing to export the first shipment of products through the Lapis Lazuli route (Afghanistan-Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey).
The train which will pass from Turan to Torghundi station, will further go through whole Turkmenistan to the Turkmenbashi International Sea Port. Then it will leave for Azerbaijan through the Caspian Sea.
According to the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the first shipment will be realized on Thursday, December 13, 2018.
Afghan products will be sent to Turkey and then to European markets via Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
Among the products to be exported in the first shipment are more than 175 tons of cotton, dried fruits and sesame, and 50 percent of transport costs will be provided by Afghanistan.
Officials of Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industries have called on the government to take into account more opportunities for the business community to export their products via such routes.
“This Thursday, the first export of our products to Turkey through the Lapis Lazuli corridor, will be carried out with the participation of high-level government officials and representatives from member countries,” said Hassan Soroosh, Acting Director General for Economic Cooperation of the Afghan Foreign Ministry.
The Lapis-Lazuli route will allow the participating countries to diversify their access to regional and continental markets. This, in turn, will lead to the economic development of the countries lying along this corridor. Azerbaijan, for inctance, will get huge benefits being a transit country.
Afghanistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia signed an agreement on the creation of the Lapis Lazuli transport corridor set to connect five countries at the 7th Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan on November 15, 2017.
The trans-regional corridor will encompass mainly railways and highways, which will connect the city of Torghundi in the Afghan province of Herat with the port of Turkmenbashi on the shore of the Caspian Sea via Ashgabat.
From Turkmenbashi, goods will be able to travel further by ferry to Baku, where they would be placed on train cars and continue westward to Europe across the South Caucasus via the newly launched Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. Further, the corridor will pass through Tbilisi to Ankara with branches to Poti and Batumi, and, then, from Ankara to Istanbul.
Barriers to regional trade and transit and transaction costs will be reduced, in part, through a new Custom Integration Procedure and, between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, a new Cross-Border Transport Agreement. Its projected impact is considerable not only because most of the needed infrastructure is already in place, but also because most of the investment required will focus on improving policy and governance.
The name ‘Lapis Lazuli’ is derived from the historic route that Afghanistan’s lapis lazuli and other semiprecious stones were exported along, over 2,000 years ago, to the Caucasus, Russia, the Balkans, Europe, and North Africa.