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Kabul opens new trade route to Central Asia

Updated December 14, 2018

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Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani says "today Afghanistan is connected with its neighbours and beyond".
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani says "today Afghanistan is connected with its neighbours and beyond".

HERAT: Afghanistan on Thursday opened a new international trade route aimed at establishing direct access to Central Asian and Europe as it seeks to build up an economy wrecked by decades of war and reduce reliance on Pakistan.

President Ashraf Ghani inaugurated the route, known as the Lapis Lazuli corridor, at a ceremony in the western province of Herat.

“For over 17 years Afghanistan was in isolation, today Afghanistan is connected with its neighbours and beyond,” Ghani said at the ceremony, which saw the first trucks set off with dried fruit, herbs and textiles bound for Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey.

The corridor is the latest in a series of energy and transport projects aimed at opening Afghanistan up as a hub at the heart of Central Asia.

Ghani, a former World Bank official, has pushed such projects, including the $10 billion TAPI — Turk­menistan, Afghan­istan, Pakistan, and India — natural gas network launched this year, as essential to building a functioning Afghan economy.

The new corridor — which includes stretches or road, rail and maritime routes — runs from Afgha­nistan to Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia before crossing the Black Sea to Turkey and eventually Europe.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2018

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