Afghanistan – Turkmenistan – Azerbaijan Trilateral Cooperation: The Lapis-Lazuli Corridor Gains New Momentum

On July 2, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and President of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani hold a meeting via videoconferencing on the initiative of the latter to discuss trilateral cooperation. The current state and further development of transport and logistics and the Lapis-Lazuli corridor in particular was the main topic of discussion. Along with this the presidents exchanged views on the issues related to energy, transit, trade and investment opportunities, unification of tariffs in the context of the Lapis-Lazuli corridor. Despite global pandemic, the volume of goods transported by the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway in the first six months of 2020 is 3.7 times higher than in the same period in 2019, as mentioned by President Ilham Aliyev. It once again proves the importance of this project in connecting West and East. During the meeting, Azerbaijani President proposed to set up a joint governmental working group and hold a working meeting of the transport agencies of three countries to discuss further steps. The proposal put forward by President Aliyev was supported by President Ashraf Ghani and President Berdimuhamedov. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, in his turn, suggested to create an energy corridor from Azerbaijan to Afghanistan which, potentially will expand to Pakistan and India, in accordance with the ongoing work on the completion of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline.

The Agreement on the Lapis Lazuli corridor was signed by Georgia, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan on the sidelines of the 7th Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan on 14-15 November 2017. The Turkey-Georgia-Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan-Afghanistan transit corridor (Lapis Lazuli) is specially crucial for the landlocked Afghanistan and Turkmenistan and makes a significant contribution to these countries’ economy. As a part of Eurasian connectivity and the Middle Corridor, the Lapis-Lazuli transport corridor consequently serves to deeper regional integration by creating new opportunities to increase trade volume.