On 13 December 2018 the first freight convoy loaded with export goods of Afghanistan, destined for European countries, left Herat via the route of the Lapis Lazuli transport and transit corridor for Turkmenistan.
The ceremony of sending off the commodity pilot convoy was attended by the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, the representative delegations of the countries participating in the Lapis Lazuli corridor – Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. Turkmenistan was represented by the minister of road transport Orazdurdy Sukhanov.
Afghanistan is in favor of connectivity policy and the inauguration of the Lapis Lazuli corridor is a milestone in this regard,said President of Afghanistan, having appreciated the efforts by Afghanistan’s international partners including Turkmenistan, Turkey and Azerbaijan for the project, TOLOnews reports.
According to the ministry of industry and trade of Afghanistan, 135 tons of cargo, including 83 tons of cotton string, 23 tons of raisins, 26 tons of watermelon seeds and 2.5 tons of sesame, are on board the nine trucks.
From Torghundi, a test train will transit across Turkmenistan to the international seaport of Turkmenbashi, from where the goods will be delivered to the Azerbaijani port of Baku, then to the Black sea ports of Georgia – Poti and Batumi, and will get access to the Turkish and European transport networks.
In a two-week period, Afghan goods will have to travel over 3,000 kilometers by road, rail and sea before they reach European markets. The trial cargo movement will allow the parties involved in the project – transport agencies, companies, logisticians – to identify issues for their further elaboration in order to effectively use the highway.
Earlier, foreign ministry of Afghanistan said half of the cost of transportation on the multimodal route will be provided by the government.
– The corridor opens markets for our traders and products. Fortunately, we have many different types of products from pine nuts to saffron and even mineral products, – commented the deputy press secretary of the President, Shah Hussain Murtazawi, stressing that the Lapis Lazuli corridor will be the shortest and cheapest route.
Meanwhile, ordinary citizens of Afghanistan actively express their emotions and joyful feelings in social networks in connection with the launch of the transport corridor. Literally, every minute messages appear on Twitter under the hashtags #LapisLazuliAFG and #InaugurationOfLapisLazuliCorridor such as “not only goods and business will move along the Lapis Lazuli corridor, but also hopes, peace and cooperation in Eurasia”. Afghan people called this day “great”, “marking the beginning of a new era in Afghanistan’s trade development.”
Turkmenistan, being the first transit country after the starting point of the corridor, has done a lot to make the concept of the Lapis Lazuli corridor a reality. The Turkmen side has upgraded the hard infrastructure to improve transport linkages with Afghanistan with railway crossings Imamnazar-Aqina and Serkhetabat-Torghundi.
The agreement, which laid the regulatory frames for the practical implementation of the project, was signed in Ashgabat at the 7th RECCA Conference a year ago.
At the end of November, an international conference of transport ministers of the countries-members to the Lapis Lazuli corridor was held in the Avaza, where all parties reaffirmed their strong commitments to the effective operationalization of the Lapis Lazuli route. ///nCa, 16 December 2018