Lapis-Lazuli Transit, Trade & Transport Route (Lapis Lazuli Corridor)
Since its initiation in 2012 the Lapis Lazuli Transit, Trade & Transport Route Agreement has been developed with a view to enhancing regional economic integration and trade-based connectivity between the countries of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. Lapis-Lazuli makes a notable contribution to building an integrated transit and transport system among the contracting parties, and beyond by expanding economic and cultural links between Asia and Europe. The name “Lapis Lazuli” is derived from the historic route that Afghanistan’s lapis lazuli and other semiprecious stones were exported along, over 2,000 years ago to the Caucasus, Russia, the Balkans, Europe, and North Africa. The project will serve to reinforce the Afghan Government’s National Infrastructure Plan and the Private Sector Development National Priority Program. The Lapis Lazuli Corridor is also geared toward expanding the economic opportunities of citizens in the wide range of countries who will benefit from this new transport corridor. The provision of facilities for transit and simplification of customs procedures constitute two important pillars of cooperation under the agreement. The Lapis Lazuli Corridor encompasses part of CAREC Transport Corridor #2, stretching from Aqina in northern Faryab province and Torghundi in western Herat (both in Afghanistan), and continuing to the port of Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan (on the Caspian Sea); the route then continues on to Baku and further onward to Tblisi, as well as the Georgian ports of Poti and Batumi; finally, the corridor connects to the cities of Kars and Istanbul, Turkey, at the entrance of Europe.
Three technical meetings on the Lapis Lazuli Route Agreement have been held, with the final one in November 2016 in Baku, where the participants finalized the text of the agreement. The official signing ceremony will take place on the sidelines of RECCA-VII in Ashgabat this year. Lapis Lazuli’s projected impact is considerable not only because most of the needed infrastructure is already in place, but also because most of the investment required will focus on improving policy and governance. The Economic Rate of Return and Net Present Value still need to be established, but with a discount rate applied at 12%, the overall returns are expected to be positive. The Lapis Lazuli Corridor will connect with Turkey’s Middle
Corridor Project (“East-West Trans-Caspian Trade and Transport Corridor”) and will also compliment other regional transport corridors such as the Five Nations Railway Corridor. The project has the potential to serve as an important part of the Afghan Government's National Infrastructure Plan.
|Budget & Funding Status||Current project estimates exceed USD $2 billion|
|Institutional Partners||Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey|
Recommended Actions by RECCA-VII and Beyond:
- Following the signing of the Lapis Lazuli Corridor agreement which is expected to take place on the sidelines of RECCA VII in Ashgabat, the internal procedures of the contracting parties required for the entry into force of the Agreement need to be completed at the earliest possible with a view to ensure expeditious implementation of the agreement.
- Ensure financing needs for required feasibility studies and the project’s long-term infrastructure maintenance (O&M).
- Key priorities under the initiative in the medium to long term include: 1) improve road conditions and transit facilities along major highways; 2) expand rail links between Afghanistan and Turkey and beyond; 3) improve multi-modal land ports in priority places in each of the five Lapis Lazuli Route countries; and 4) undertake a Cost-Benefit Analysis on establishing Cross-Border Economic (Tax Free) Zones between the countries along the corridor.