Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan may unite Asia, Europe - envoy
By Kamila Aliyeva
Turkmenistan is open for negotiations on accession to the International North-South Transport Corridor project, Turkmen Ambassador to Azerbaijan Mekan Ishanguliyev said at a briefing in Baku.
He said that Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have the potential to unite Asia and Europe.
“Turkmenistan has all necessary infrastructure to join the International North-South Transport Corridor project, and the construction of the Turkmenbashi International Seaport is nearing completion,” the diplomat said.
The International North-South Transport Corridor, a 7,200 kilometer-long freight route connecting India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia via ship, rail and road, is meant to connect Northern Europe with Southeast Asia. The main objective of the INSTC is to provide an alternative to the traditional routes carried out by sea through the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea.
At the initial stage, it is planned to transport 5 million tons of cargo per year through the corridor and more than 10 million tons of cargo in the future.
The corridor is expected to bring huge benefits to the Azerbaijani budget. The route enjoys several advantages compared to other transport corridors, as it is considered to be more profitable for each parameter than other alternative routes, including reduction of the distance and delivery time two or threefold.
Ishanguliyev also noted the significance of the Lapis Lazuli transport project, the participants of which are Afghanistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
These countries signed an agreement on the creation of the Lapis Lazuli transport corridor which is set to connect the five countries 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.
The budget of the project is estimated to exceed $2 billion. Consultations on the creation of the transport corridor began back in 2012. The initiative seeks to improve transport infrastructure and procedures (including for road, rail, and sea), increase exports, and expand the economic opportunities of citizens in countries benefiting from this new transport corridor.
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.
During the briefing, Turkmen Ambassador also said that Turkmenistan is inviting Azerbaijan to cooperate in the TAPI project.
He said that this project will contribute to the social and economic development of the region.
The construction of the Turkmen section of the TAPI was launched in December 2015. Work on the Turkmen section is complete while work on the Afghanistan section of the pipeline project started last month in Herat – in the west of the country.
The pipeline will run from Galkynysh – the largest gas field in Turkmenistan – through the Afghan cities of Herat and Kandahar, and finally reach the Fazilka settlement located near the India-Pakistan border.
The total length of the pipeline is 1,814 kilometers, including 214 kilometers in the territory of Turkmenistan, 774 kilometers in Afghanistan, 826 kilometers in Pakistan to the settlement of Fazilka on the border with India. The project's preliminary cost is estimated at $10 billion.
Annual capacity of the gas pipeline will be 33 billion cubic meters.
For the construction of the TAPI gas pipeline, a consortium - TAPI Pipeline Company Limited - was established and the state concern Turkmengaz was elected as the leader.
The main problems for the project’s implementation largely considered to be financing and security issues as the pipeline is to pass through the territory of Afghanistan.
Earlier, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Japanese government expressed their interest in financing TAPI.
The Islamic Development Bank has already allocated a loan worth $700 million for Turkmenistan to construct its TAPI section.
Kamila Aliyeva is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Kami_Aliyeva
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