SCO Transport Forum hears plans for Russia—Caspian Sea—Turkmenistan—Uzbekistan—Kyrgyzstan corridor
A multimodal transport corridor running from Russia to Kyrgyzstan via a route that crosses the Caspian Sea, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan was on November 1 outlined at the first Transport Forum of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states, held in Tashkent.
Importantly for the three Central Asian countries on the route, the corridor would allow for trade flows to and from Russia—and also to and from Europe via Russia—without the necessity of using road and rail links that reach the Russian border through Kazakhstan. Kyrgyzstan in particular regularly complains about gridlocked traffic at its border with Kazakhstan as Kazakh officials fail to process lines of cargo-laden trucks at the pace that Bishkek expects.
At the forum, Uzbek transport minister Ilkhom Makhkamov delivered proposals on how SCO member state transport and logistics cooperation could develop through various existing and new corridors. His document called for:
• creation of alternative transport lines, harmonisation of standards and application of flexible tariffs;
• construction of multimodal logistics centres along transport arteries and border territories; and
• organisation of work at border control points in a 24/7 format, and the simplification of visa issuance.
Also at the SCO gathering, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia signed a memorandum of understanding on the development and formation of the Russia—Caspian Sea—Turkmenistan—Uzbekistan—Kyrgyzstan corridor.
Officials from various countries present at the forum also said there were plans to create a Belarus—Russia— Kazakhstan—Uzbekistan—Afghanistan—Pakistan corridor.
Turkmenistan is not an SCO member, thus officials from the country were not present at the event to offer their opinions on the proposed corridor that would be dependent on Turkmen Caspian Sea port facilities. However, Ashgabat has shown much enthusiasm of late in expanding its role in north-south and east-west trade that could transit through Turkmen territory.
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