President Ghani opens Lapis Lazuli Corridor, Herat ring road

KABUL: President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani in his visit to Herat has inaugurated Lapis Lazuli Corridor.
In a ceremony held Thursday in Herat city with participation of government high-ranking officials, representatives from Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and foreign diplomats to Afghanistan, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani said: “Today, a very big obstacle against our goal changing Afghanistan to an exporting and connecting country was addressed.”
“Afghanistan was in isolation 17 years ago, but today Afghanistan is reaching out and wants relations and cooperation,” President Ghani said, adding that Afghans are people of connectivity not separation.
The country’s President said that through Lapis Lazuli route, having 4,000 years history, lapis of Badakhshan was exported to Egypt and India.
Pointing to the province of Herat, President Ghani said: “Herat has been the prestige of Ruby in regional connectivity as Tahir Foushanji has changed the history of the region and Islamic world and developed knowledge and industry from east to west.”
“We want to revive the past as Afghanistan in particular Herat had been the square of trade,” the country’s President said, adding in past we had the position of intersection, thought and cities and today we are the intersection of India, Central Asia, Caucasus and Europe.
In his speech in the ceremony, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani praised Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdi Muhamedow, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili and Turkish President RecepTayyip Erdogan for their role and efforts in regional connectivity in particular execution of the agreement for opening the route.
The country’s President added that it was an example of cooperation in which their northern neighboring countries trusted on Afghanistan and through the corridor, grapes, marbles and Herat’s saffron would be soon exported to Europe, adding that pomegranate of Kandahar, almond of Samangan and Zabul and all other agricultural products of Afghanistan would be exported to world markets.
In the ceremony, minister of transport Mohammad Hamid Tuhmasy, representing relevant organs and private sector, spoke and said opening Lapis Lazuli Corridor was another example of joint efforts of Afghanistan and regional countries for expansion of transit and trade cooperation.
Speaking also at the occasion, Turkey’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, Oguzhan Ertugrul, said the corridor — made mostly of rail and highways — would not only boost regional trade, but also help promote peace in Afghanistan. He added that Ankara hopes to further promote ties with Kabul, and pledged support for Afghanistan in various sectors.
Beginning in Afghanistan’s northern Faryab province and Turqundi in Herat, the corridor continues to Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan and after crossing the Caspian Sea, links to the Azerbaijani capital Baku to Tbilisi and Georgia’s Black Sea ports of Batumi and Poti.
After connecting with Kars in eastern Turkey, it proceeds to Istanbul and ends in Europe.
The corridor connects with Turkey’s Middle Corridor Project (East-West Trans-Caspian Trade and Transport Corridor) and complements other regional transport corridors, such as the Five Nations Railway Corridor.
The first consignment, carrying cotton, raisins, sesame seeds and dry fruit, today embarked on the rail route through Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Balkans.
Named after Afghanistan’s precious gemstone, the Lapis Lazuli Route agreement was signed last year in Turkmenistan.
According to another report, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani also opened in a ceremony Herat ring road that can increase international traffic to Herat and boost the importance of the city in transit and trade
The country’s president praised the people and government of Italy for their cooperation with Afghanistan in infrastructural sector.
The 45 km ring road of Herat costing $22.5 million has been funded by the government of Italy and constructed between Islam Qala and Herat –Kandahar road.
The Kabul Times

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