Afghanistan Now Joins a Transport Link-up with Europe
Nov. 28, 2016 (EIRNS)—Today, the historic Lapis Lazuli corridor got a boost when Turkemistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani inaugurated the 85-km railroad from Atamyrat in Turkmenistan to the Ymamnazar border- crossing point and 3 kilometers onward to northwest Afghanistan’s border facilities at Aqina, Railway Gazette reported. The corridor’s name is derived from the historic export route through which Afghanistan’s lapis lazuli and other semiprecious stones were being exported. This route was linked to the Caucasus, Russia, the Balkans, Europe, and north Africa over 2,000 years back. As of now, this will be Afghanistan’s only rail link to Central Asia and beyond.
According to an Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce report,
"the corridor connects Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey via road and rail that is [the] most appropriate transit trade route in Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Balkans and Central Europe and also connects effectively South Asia to European countries. The importance of this route to Afghanistan is, an alternative and shortest, cheapest and safest way to the aforementioned areas,"
Railway Gazette reported. The initial discussions for the railway project began in 2008, and a framework agreement was signed when Afghanistan’s then-President Hamid Karzai visited Ashgabat in May 2011.
"The first freight train on the new line comprised 46 wagons carrying flour, grain, cement, urea and sulphur. There is a fuel terminal near the border, and Turkmenistan anticipates that the line will carry exports to Afghanistan which currently go by lorry including oil and gas, cement, grain and transit traffic including humanitarian freight. Afghan exports include fruit,"
Railway Gazette’s report noted.