The Lapis Lazuli Corridor is shortest, cheapest and safest route for Afghanistan’s transit trade

Lapis Lazuli Corridor is created toward transit and trade cooperation among Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey intended to reduce barriers facing transit trade and develop a Custom Procedure Integration in the region.

The corridor connects Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey via road and rail that is 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.

The Lapis Lazuli begins from Aqina in northern Faryab province and Turqundi in western Herat province of Afghanistan and continues to Turkmenbashi of Turkmenistan and after passing Caspian Sea, arrives Baku, the Azerbaijan’s capital and then it connects Baku to Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital and also to the ports of Polti and Batumi of Georgia. And then get cities of Kars and Istanbul of Turkey and finally ends Europe.

Afghanistan’s transit trade has been always facing the challenges created from the neighboring countries that have caused massive expenses and losses on the economy. Therefore, the Afghanistan needs to seek alternative ways to be released dependency and vulnerability to one or two its neighboring countries.

Lapis Lazuli Corridor is an initiative from Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the regional countries have agreed on. Followed by the first technical meeting took place on 15 November 2014 in Turkmen Ministry of Foreign Affairs, now discussions on a multilateral Transit Agreement from the regional countries are ongoing. Therefore, the next technical meeting will take place at December of 2014 in Tbilisi of Georgia to finalize the Transit Agreement.

In order to introduce and highlight importance of the transit corridor, ACCI and Economic Cooperation Department of Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a joint press conference on 25 December in ACCI’s Headquarter.

Mr. Atiqullha Nusrat, CEO of ACCI pointed out the challenges facing Afghanistan’s transit trade with the neighboring countries and emphasized on alternative route needs. Mr. Khanjan Alkozay, Senior Vice-Chairman of ACCI also underlined on importance of Lapis Lazuli Corridor as a rail-corridor, the cheapest transit route for Afghanistan. The press conference followed by presentation from Mr. Wahidullah Waissi, Director General of Economic Cooperation Dept. of MoFA containing history of the route, importance of the corridor specifically for Afghanistan, streamlining regional custom procedures, advantages of the corridor compared with other Afghanistan’s transit routes and bilateral and multilateral agreements of Afghanistan in the region.

The “Lapis Lazuli” is derived from the historic export route that Afghanistan’s lapis lazuli and other semiprecious stones were being exported through this route to Caucasus, Russian, the Balkans, Europe and North of Africa over 2000 years back.

ACCI supports the government’s initiative and believes that development of the corridor is a massive step toward enhancing Afghanistan’s transit trade with the regional countries.