By Kamila Aliyeva
The Turkmen Railway Transport Ministry and the Afghanistan Railway Authority have signed an agreement which will give additional impetus to Afghanistan’s economic development and provide possibilities for the country’s access to third states.
The MoU envisages a major overhaul of the railway track at the border station of Torgundi in Afghanistan, the Turkmen state news agency reported.
During the signing ceremony in Ashgabat, representatives of the Afghan side noted that Afghanistan attaches much importance to cooperation with Turkmenistan.
The new document aims to strengthen cooperation, expand transport infrastructure between the two countries and extend integrated services in the railway sector.
The railway line from the Turkmen station of Serkhetabat to the Afghan station of Torgundi will be totally rebuilt. The project, which includes the construction of a 13-km-long railway track, approach lines, and modern infrastructure, will be financed entirely by Turkmenistan.
The implementation of this project is set to enhance the station’s handling capacity, and increase its importance for land-locked Afghanistan’s trade relations. The track will ensure the most convenient way to export Afghanistan’s domestic products to foreign markets.
There are a number of infrastructure projects, especially in energy and transport areas, with Afghanistan’s active participation aimed at further integration of the country into regional network.
Among them is the large-scale project envisaging construction of a railway from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan. Its first phase, the Atamyrat-Ymamnazar-Aqina Railway, was completed last autumn.
Today, the countries are closely cooperating on the issue of continuing the construction project in Afghanistan. In the long term, the railway is planned to reach the border of Tajikistan and to become a significant part of the Asian International Railway Corridor.
This project will open up opportunity to become a key player in international transport corridors, crossing Central Asia, in particular the North-South and East-West Corridors.
In this context, construction of the Afghanistan-Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey Transport Corridor is seen as a promising direction.
The five nations have recently signed an agreement on the creation of the Lapis Lazuli transport corridor.
It is envisaged that the railways and motorways will connect the city of Torgundi in the Afghan province of Herat with Ashgabat, then with the port of Turkmenbashi on the shore of the Caspian Sea. Further, the corridor will pass through the Caspian Sea to Baku, then through Tbilisi to Ankara with branches to Poti and Batumi, and further 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. National railways and motorways are already forming a significant part of this transport corridor, so the agreement is primarily aimed at facilitating transit logistics and simplifying customs procedures.
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.
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.
Kamila Aliyeva is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Kami_Aliyeva
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