Lapis Lazuli transit route is set to emerge as an economic corridor for an inclusive development by which Afghanistan could connect to Europe via Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.
The first track of Lapis Lazuli project is inaugurated by President of Afghanistan, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani in Herat, Afghanistan on 13 December, 2018. The first shipment of Afghan products which include more than 175 tons of cotton, dried fruit and sesame will be exported through the route within the frame of TIR Carnet.
The trans-regional corridor will encompass mainly railways and highways, which will connect the city of Torghundi in the Afghan province of Herat with the port of Turkmenbashi on the shore of the Caspian Sea via Ashgabat. On the sidelines of Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA- VII), the Lapis Lazuli Agreement was signed in November, 2017 aiming to establish greater connectivity for enhancing trade in the RECCA region. The Lapis Lazuli Corridor will connect with Turkey’s Middle Corridor Project and will also compliment other regional transport corridors such as the Five Nations Railway Corridor. The corridor has the potential to transform trade and transit dynamics in the region that would open up opportunities for development and mutual cooperation. The Lapis Lazuli corridor’s key priorities under the initiative in the medium to long term include: 1) improving road conditions and transit facilities along major highways; 2) expanding rail links between Afghanistan and Turkey and beyond; 3) improving multi-modal land ports in priority places in each of the five Lapis Lazuli Route countries; and 4) undertaking a Cost-Benefit Analysis on establishing Cross-Border Economic Zones between the countries along the corridor.