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Lapis Lazuli Corridor: A Gate on the Beijing-London Line

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While the political activity in Afghanistan continues; It remains unclear who will complete the power gap in the country. All eyes are on China, which is trying to increase its influence in the country after the United States of America (USA). However, unlike the USA, China is trying to achieve its effectiveness through the Belt-Road Project, which it started in 2013. Afghanistan, which is the key to Eurasia, which is defined as the heartland of the world, is not only on the east-west line; It is also in a very strategic position on the north-south line.

In this context, the Lapis Lazuli Corridor, which starts from China and extends to England and forms a strategic field of the region called the Middle Corridor, draws attention as an extremely significant route. The Central Corridor, which reduces the export duration between Beijing and London to 12 days, is extremely affordable for delivering Chinese goods to European markets.

Lapis Lazuli Corridor, which was decided to be opened for the first time in 2017 at the 7th Afghanistan Regional Economic Cooperation Conference (RECCA) held in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, was officially opened at the end of 2018. The corridor starts from the ports of Akina and Turgundi in the Afghan cities of Faryab and Herat. From here, it reaches the Turkmenbashi Port in Turkmenistan, and then go to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, crossing the Caspian Sea and go to the ports of Poti and Batumi in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. The corridor passes through various ports in the Black Sea and finally reaches Europe via Turkey. Lapis Lazuli Corridor includes road, rail and sea transport.[1]

The name “Lapis Lazuli” comes from the historical way Afghanistan’s lapis lazuli and other semi-precious stones were exported to the Caucasus, Russia, the Balkans, Europe and North Africa over 2000 years ago.[2]

As can be expected, increasing the variety of transportation has emerged as a global necessity with the Covid-19 outbreak. Many disruptions in maritime transportation recently showed that transportation routes should be diversified. Therefore, in the light of current developments, the importance of railways has been understood once again. In this context, the importance of the Lapis Lazuli Corridor, which is of vital importance in terms of east-west and north-south trade and relatively cheaper in terms of Asian-European goods transportation, has increased.

This transportation corridor, which main route is the Afghanistan-Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey line, can play a key role in solving some significant economic problems for Central Asia. The aforementioned corridor is designed to promote the further development of production in the region and to increase the economy of landlocked Afghanistan. Moreover, the Lapis Lazuli Corridor can contribute to expanding the economic opportunities of citizens in various countries. The corridor has the potential to transform the trade and transit dynamics in the region in a way that creates opportunities for development and mutual cooperation.

The corridor has many priorities within the scope of its medium and long-term initiatives. These can be listed as:[3]

  • Improve road conditions and transit facilities along major highways
  • Expand rail links between Afghanistan and Turkey and beyond
  • Improve multi-modal land ports in priority places in each of the five Lapis Lazuli Route countries
  • Undertake a Cost-Benefit Analysis on establishing Cross-Border Economic (Tax Free) Zones between the countries along the corridor.

Furthermore, 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.[4]

As mentioned above, the Lapis Lazuli Corridor is just one of many transit lines in the region. However, it is not only Afghanistan-based developments but also all negative events in the region prevent consensus and progress on transit lines. The rising tension in Afghanistan, which is the starting point of the corridor, has created an unstable and uncertain environment. The increasing of conflicts, on the other hand, prevents the prediction of where things will go, and a power gap is created in the country in every sense.

With the withdrawal of the US Army from Afghanistan, the Beijing administration’s statement that it will continue its investments in Afghanistan indicates that the power gap in the country can be filled by China. As a matter of fact, in the statement made by the Taliban should not be ignored. Taliban viewed China’s investments in Afghanistan positively and promised to provide security guarantees.[5]

As a result; Lapis Lazuli Corridor, which creates an advantageous situation not only for Afghanistan but also countries in the region and all the transit countries on the line, is extremely vital because it brings a new gate to global trade. Therefore, the corridor is not only political, also it will be beneficial both economically and socially.


[1] “The Geopolitics of the Lapis Lazuli Corridor”, The Diplomat, https://thediplomat.com/2017/12/the-geopolitics-of-the-lapis-lazuli-corridor/, (Date of access: 18.07.2021).

[2] “Lapis-Lazuli Transit, Trade&Transport Route (Lapis Lazuli Corridor)”, RECCA, https://recca.af/?page_id=2080, (Date of access: 26.07.2021).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Afganistan Öznesinde Kuşak ve Yol İnisiyatifi”, CRI Türk, https://www.criturk.com/afganistan-oznesinde-kusak-ve-yol-inisiyatif/, (Date of access: 18.07.2021).

Özge ELETEK
Özge Eletek 1999 yılında İzmir’de doğdu. İlk ve orta öğretim hayatını İzmir’de tamamlayan Eletek, 2017 yılında Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nü kazandı. Çeşitli düşünce kuruluşlarında birçok konferans ve seminere katılan Eletek, Ankara Kriz ve Siyaset Araştırmaları Merkezi’ndeki stajını sürdürmektedir.