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Afghanistan halts exports via Lapis Lazuli corridor amid visa restrictions

AT News

KABUL: Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce said Monday exports to Europe through the Lapis Lazuli transport corridor have been halted due to hurdles facing Afghan exporters and traders in their visa applications in en route countries.

Exports to European Union through this passageway have faced hurdles earlier this year because traders have been frequently denied visas by the countries along the corridor.

Exporters have sought government intervention to help tackle the visa restrictions, said Deputy Chairman of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries Khan Jan Alokozay. “But, no effort has been made to solve the problem,” he said.

Through this route, Afghanistan exports cotton, raisin, seeds, sesame and minerals. The Lapis Lazuli Corridor, initiated in December 2018, offers a passageway to transport Afghanistan-made goods to Europe through Aqina port in northern Faryab and Torghundi port in Herat province. The corridor passes through Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Black Sea and then Turkey, connecting Afghanistan to open waters.

The importance of this route to Afghanistan is, an alternative and shortest, cheapest and safest way to Europe. It’s because the corridor passes through Turkmenbashi seaport in Turkmenistan, then reaches to Tbilisi in Georgia through Baku, Azerbaijan. There is railroads from the starting point in Afghan border to Turkmenbashi international seaport. And Baku is also connected to Qaras and Istanbul through railway and roads.

Earlier, Afghanistan’s foreign ministry said an inclusive transport package would be introduced for cargoes along the corridor, based on which customs will be coordinated in the en route countries. The plan would also regulate tariffs and reduce security concerns. But, Alokozay believes that exporters had to go through hectic customs in every country along the Lapis Lazuli route, a hefty and time-consuming process.

Other alternatives are, according to government statistics, including Karachi port in Pakistan to Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan which is costly and takes a minimum of 14 days. And transportation of every truck costs roughly $5,000. Transport costs through Kazakhstan route which sprawls along 6,200km aggregates around $4,000. But, it costs around $3,200 through Torghundi port which is 2,200km, a route which is considered the cheapest and shortest for Afghanistan exports.

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