The members of the Lapis Lazuli Corridor, except Georgia, are also the members of the ECO (Economic Cooperation Organization). Therefore, ECO has an important role to play in the development of connectivity solutions in the region.
Here is the text of the speech of Ambassador Hiseyin Avni Bicakh Deputy, the Secretary General of the Economic Cooperation Organization at the international conference on the Lapis Lazuli Corridor held at Awaza on 28 November 2018:
Mr. Chairman, distinguished Delegates, honored guests: On behalf of the Economic Cooperation Organization, let me convey a warm welcome to this august International Meeting on the Lapis Lazuli international transport corridor and wish you success in the constructive deliberations. Let me also express profound gratitude to the Host Organizers for excellent arrangements made for the participants.
The city of Turkmenbashi is gradually becoming an epicenter of international and regional transport dynamics. As with the ink on the important documents adopted by the 9th ECO Ministerial Meeting on Transport in Turkmenbashi not dried up yet, here we meet anew to step up the Lapis Lazuli railway project, which is of unbeatable value for the international and regional transport network.
Speaking of the role played by the inter-governmental cooperation in the development of the Lapis Lazuli international transport corridor, I would like to make some salient points on how ECO contributes to widening of cooperation on the corridor. To that effect, the 23rd Council of Ministers Meeting (COM) held on 17 April 2018 has, particularly, stressed in the Dushanbe Communique the crucial role of the Lapis Lazuli railway corridor for the region. To implement the decisions of the Foreign Ministers that were adopted at COM in April 2018 as well as those adopted by the ECO’s Transport Ministers in May of this current year, our Organization gears to exert every effort in order to upgrade the Lapis Lazuli project amongst ECO’s first priorities in terms of practical steps. In this, there is a firm logic behind the practically integrating the Lapis Lazuli transport corridor into theECO’s mainstream project pipeline, which has already prioritized the KTAI railway route, involving Afghanistan and the KTI railway, which involves Turkmenistan as well as the Istanbul-Almaty Bandar Abbas-Almaty route involving both the neighbouring countries.
We are now stepping up the re-assessment of the ECO’s projects pool, which has been estimated at 43billion US dollar value towards its fast optimization against bankable projects. In this process, the prime focus is being placed on the commercialization and operational efficiency. With that task to begin in the coming January, we are currently in the middle of implementing the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran (KTI) railway project that has been selected to serve as a replicable model for the entire ECO region. We have in mind to replicate its interoperability mechanism, in particular. The latter in the ECO context is the CME, which stands for the Common Corridor Management Entity. Early operationalization of this railway route as well of the Istanbul-Almaty & Bandar Abbas – Almaty railway routes deems to essentially contribute to the upcoming sensible increase of the ECO’s intra-trade, which the Member States have envisaged to double by 2025 from the 2017 mark of 53 billion US dollars to an estimated 106 billion US dollar mark.
From that perspective, the coordination role of the inter-governmental cooperation is crucial in the development of the Lapis Lazuli transport corridor, which I, am certain, will make an essential contribution to the continual trade value of the existing rail-based freight across the region. Likewise, it will help bring in a fresh influx of transport and transit services at terminals of the recently launched Turkmenbashi International Seaport. The latter is now becoming an important transit and transport hub amongst the regions connecting Asia with Europe while, at the same time, interoperating railway corridors in the East – West direction.
Mr. Chairman, distinguished Delegates, honored guests: There comes the momentum for us to deliberate today on the role of the inter-governmental cooperation in the context of the Lapis Lazuli international transit corridor. It is especially timely and important given that the Turkmenbashi International Seaport is placed central in the long-time journey of the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC). In this, the Lapis Lazuli transport corridor stands out as an invaluable blood vessel. Similarly, the Qazvin-Rasht-Astara (Iran)-Astara (Azerbaijan) railway line is as important as Lapis Lazuli. I am particularly pleased to voicefrom this rostrum that the Rasht-Astara segment of the Qazvin-Rasht-Astara railway line on the INSTC has recently been completed. The second phase of the afore-mentioned project will now move on—to enable railway connection of Russia, Georgia, and Poland in the north with India in south through ECO’s en-route countries.
Of no less importance is the moment to look ahead and deliberate on strategies that we configure today within the inter-governmental cooperation-to shape up our shared future on transport. In so doing, the construction of the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Iran (KTAI) railway route in the region may not underscored. The KTAI is currently under construction as you well know. The construction of the 77km Khaf-Shamtigh segment was completed by Iran as was the 30km section of the 62km Shamtigh-Ghorian rail segment. Iran has carried on with construction works along the 87km Ghorian-Geno-Herat rail segment. In August of this current year, the Ministers of Transport of Iran and Afghanistan met to discuss the construction of the subsequent fourth section of the KTI. The feasibility studies on KTAI’s remaining rail segments have been completed to date, except one in Kyrgyzstan, for which the national government has arranged financing by China. Likewise, financing has been arranged for the construction of the estimated 697km span of the route crossing trough the territory of Afghanistan for which Uzbekistan has reportedly agreed to ensure appropriate solutions. Given such fresh impetus in the development of the railway routes originating from Afghanistan, the Lapis Lazuli rail corridor is another evidence of the combined regional collaborative governance leading to sustainability in railway transport.
Mr. Chairman, distinguished Delegates, honored guests:
I solemnly state that we, in ECO, will make every possible effort to support the Lapis Lazuli transport corridor in its collaborative path to fruition. At this note, let me conclude my brief statement by the universal saying, which goes as follows: “You will always be late for the previous train but you will surely be on time for the next”. I wish that the Lapis Lazuli railway corridor be the next firm and timely step for all of us to make along the path towards sustainable, cooperative, inclusive and shared transport.
Thank you for the attention. /// nCa, 5 December 2018