17 december 2017

Central Asia news

Transport corridor will connect Afghanistan with Turkey

16.11.2017 10:27 msk

Ferghana


The seventh Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) was held in Ashgabat on 14 and 15 November, in which representatives from 65 countries and international organisations took part.

The Afghan delegation led by second Vice President, Mohammad Sarwar Danish, and the wife of the President of Afghanistan, Rula Ghani, also arrived in Turkmenistan.

During the conference, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey signed an agreement creating the transport "Lapis Lazuli" corridor, which connects the five countries. Railways and motorways connect the city of Torgundi in the Afghan province of Herat with Ashgabat, then with the Turkmenbashi port in the Caspian Sea. Further, the corridor will continue through the Caspian Sea to Baku, then through Tbilisi to Ankara with branches in Poti and Batumi, then from Ankara to Istanbul, TASS reports.

The project budget is estimated at US$2 billion. The idea of creating such a corridor was discussed five years ago, and the current agreement is aimed at simplifying logistics and customs procedures.

Building roads and linking them to a single transport network is a very important issue for Afghanistan. The special representative of the President of Uzbekistan on Afghanistan, Ismatilla Irgashev, said in an interview with the EurAsia Daily: "We created a cargo hub on the border "Termez-Cargo". In September, Afghan business people attended its presentation. The project obviously interested them, because the hub is super modern, equipped with spacious warehouses, and what is important—refrigeration. It is convenient because it has its own customs. Bank offices have been opened in it, and the railway line is connected. The hub will be used, not only for export operations to Afghanistan, but for imports from this country."

As Irgashev said, "In a very short time, an 85-kilometre road to Mazar-i-Sharif was built. Now this railway is actively exploited and plays a key role in the export-import operations of Afghanistan. Plans are under discussion to continue this line to Herat-western Afghanistan. Iran plans to finish the laying of the railway from the city of Hauf to Herat in a month and a half, which would be 200 kilometres long."

"The communication between these two cities through Herat will give an opportunity, not only to Afghanistan, but also to all Central Asia countries, to transit cargo to the Iranian ports of Chabakhan and Bandar Abbas. The cost of the project is about $750 million, and work on the Afghan territory is financed from the national budget by Kabul. Such economic projects will bring tangible dividends to the Afghan treasury. Along the railway, a highway will be built and the corresponding infrastructure will be constructed."

The government of Afghanistan, according to Irgashev, will provide the security for the road projects. "Thousands of Afghans will be involved in peaceful work," he said. "Thus, the people, who have been fighting for 40 years, will get an opportunity to earn their living peacefully, and not by machine guns or growing opium poppy."

In 2017, the area of opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan reached a record 328,000 hectares, exceeding the previous record in 2014 by 46 per cent.

Conferences on economic cooperation for Afghanistan have been held since 2005; the first one took place in Kabul, others were held in New Delhi, Islamabad, Istanbul, Dushanbe, and again Kabul hosted RECCA. The conference was held in Ashgabat for the first time.

Lapis Lazuli or lazurite is a mineral after which the future transport corridor has been named. Since ancient times, Afghan lapis lazuli was exported to China, Egypt, Byzantium and Rome.

Fergana News Agency