Ashgabat, Ankara discuss Lapis Lazuli transit project

12 November 2018 12:25 (UTC+04:00)

By Abdul Kerimkhanov

Prospects for the creation of an international transit-transport corridor Afghanistan-Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey (Lazurit) were discussed at the meeting between Turkmen and Turkish presidents. The budget of the project is estimated to exceed $2 billion.

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.

President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov received Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Chavusoglu.

The commitment of the Turkish side to the traditionally friendly relations with Turkmenistan, which are successfully developing across their spectrum, was reaffirmed.

Berdimuhamedov noted with satisfaction the constructive, progressive nature of the interstate dialogue. Turkmenistan and Turkey, the head of state said, are linked by fruitful diverse cooperation that meets both mutual interests and well-being goals in the regional and global dimension.

During the meeting, the head of state and his guest exchanged views on the prospects for the Turkmen-Turkish partnership in the context of the reached bilateral agreements and realizing the existing solid potential in various fields. Among the priority areas of cooperation were the trade and economic sphere, energy, the transport and communications sector, etc.

The Turkish Foreign Minister also expressed deep gratitude to President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov for the support provided to representatives of Turkish business, who show great interest in further strengthening mutually beneficial relations with Turkmenistan, where a favorable investment climate has been created and large infrastructure projects and major reform programs are being implemented.

An integral and important component of interstate relations is the humanitarian sphere, which is also due to the historical, cultural and spiritual community that unites the peoples of the two countries. In this area, a wealth of experience of joint work has been accumulated and there are favorable opportunities for building up fruitful cooperation in the area of education and science, culture and art, as well as sports and tourism.

Along with this, it was emphasized that Turkmenistan and Turkey effectively cooperate in the format of authoritative regional and international organizations, demonstrating the coincidence or similarity of positions on topical issues of our time, primarily relating to ensuring global peace and security and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. In this regard, the Turkmen leader and his guest also spoke in favor of continuing the practice of regular contacts between the foreign affairs agencies.

At the end of the meeting, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey Mevlut Chavushoglu expressed confidence that the long-term interstate partnership, relying on the inviolable bonds of friendship and the continued goodwill of the parties, will continue to develop dynamically, filled with new concrete content.

Afghanistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia 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.

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. 

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