Turkey’s Multilateral Transportation Policy

Turkey, in line with her geographical location between continents and regions, supports the development of regional transportation projects.

In this regard, Turkey aims to sustain not only commercial, economic and investment relations but also political and cultural relations between and beyond her surrounding regions.

A. Trans-Caspian East-West-Middle Corridor Initiative

Trans-Caspian East-West-Middle Corridor Initiative shortly named as “The Middle Corridor”, which begins in Turkey and passes through the Caucasus region via Georgia, Azerbaijan, crosses the Caspian Sea, traverses Central Asia and reaches China, is one of the most important component of the efforts to revive the ancient Silk Road. It passes by rail and road respectively through Georgia, Azerbaijan and Caspian Sea, (crossing the Caspian transit corridor) and reaches China by following Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan or Kazakhstan route. On this route, ports of Baku/Alat (in Azerbaijan), Aktau/Kuryk (in Kazakhstan) and Turkmenbashi (in Turkmenistan) are the main points of multimodal transport on Caspian transit corridor. Moreover, the Middle Corridor gets attraction of the regional countries, especially the landlocked ones.

In one year, out of approximately 10 million containers that are transported from China to Europe, 96 % utilizes the sea and only the remaining 4 % uses the Trans-Siberian Railway, which is also called the Northern Corridor. The Middle Corridor is more economical and faster compared to the Northern Corridor as a trade route between Europe and Asia and as such, is 2.000 km shorter, has more favorable climate conditions and shortens the travel time by 1/3rd (15 days) compared to the sea route. Furthermore, the Middle Corridor offers great opportunities for the cargo traffic in Asia so that the loads can reach Middle East, North Africa and Mediterranean region by benefiting from the port connections in Turkey.

If the Middle Corridor is used effectively, important economic opportunities will arise for the Central Asian countries to benefit from the trade between China and Europe, estimated to be worth 600 billion USD annually. In particular, establishment of logistical centers and free trade zones at the ports of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan will facilitate the development and deepening of Trans-Caspian cooperation.

As part of the cooperation that is undertaken within the context of the Middle Corridor, a “Common Cooperation Protocol” was signed by the Ministers of Transport of the members of the Turkic Council. Furthermore, a Coordination Council was initiated at the level of Deputy Minister to provide practical solutions for problems that may arise between these countries in the field of transportation. A Memorandum of Understanding was also signed for the purpose of establishing a Sister-Port Relationship between the ports of Baku, Aktau and Samsun. Negotiations are underway within the framework of the Turkic Council for the signing of an “Agreement on International Combined Freight Transportation”.

Another important effort to strengthen Trans-Caspian transport route alternatives was the signing of an agreement between Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Georgia on 7 November 2013, titled “the Establishment of a Coordination Committee for the Development of Trans-Caspian International Transportation Route”. Within the framework of the said Agreement, to which China subsequently became a party, the first pilot shipment took place on 28 July 2015. A container train, which originated from Western China (“the Nomad Express”) reached Baku through Aktau and the Caspian Sea in 6 days.

Another important component of the Middle Corridor was completed when the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) Railway was inaugurated on 30 October 2017. The BTK offers a new perspective for the uninterrupted trade between China and Europe and has an initial capacity of 1 million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo, which is foreseen to be increased to 3 million passengers and 17 million tons of cargo per year by 2034.

The “Turkey-Georgia-Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan-Afghanistan Transit Corridor Agreement”, also known as the “Lapis Lazuli Agreement”, is important for landlocked Afghanistan to have a route to the Black Sea/Mediterranean, and is a concrete result of our efforts for the development of regional integration and connectivity, for the diversification of regional economies and for strengthening of the regional stability and prosperity. The Lapis Lazuli Agreement was signed within the margins of the Ministerial Conference of the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) that took place on 14-15 November 2017 in Ashgabat.

Furthermore, Turkey is undertaking various projects to revive the historical Silk Road. In addition to the “Caravansarai Project” that aims cooperation between customs authorities in the region within the framework of the Middle Corridor, major infrastructure initiatives connecting Europe with Asia was completed such as the “Marmaray” undersea railway, the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge in İstanbul which was inaugurated on 26 August 2016, the Eurasia Tunnel that was inaugurated on 20 December 2016 and the İstanbul Airport that was inaugurated on 29 October 2018. In that regard, the Three-Level Tube Tunnel Project inİstanbul,Çanakkale Strait Bridge project,Edirne-Kars High Speed Rail project, Gebze-Orhangazi-İzmir Motorway,Northern Marmara Motorway project and the construction of Filyos, Çandarlı and Mersin ports are major examples of further ongoing national projects that will also enhance regional interconnectivity.

B. “The Belt and Road Initiative”

The Middle Corridor initiative, envisaging the revival of the ancient Silk Road, creates a natural synergy with the Belt and Road Initiative of the People’s Republic of China, which aims at developing connectivity between east and west. In this framework, Turkey supports the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) on the basis of “win-win” principle.

In that sense, a “Memorandum of Understanding on Aligning the Belt and Road Initiative and the Middle Corridor Initiative” was signed between Turkey and China in November 2015 during the G-20 Leaders Summit in Antalya.

Within the framework of the BRI, Trans-Caspian China Railway Express Chang’an Train, the first freight train reaching Turkey (6 November 2019, in Ankara), completed its journey from Xi’an, China to Prague, Czech Republic in 18 days, by using the Middle Corridor and Turkey’s transport infrastructure, including BTK railway and the Marmaray.

The number of the similar freight train services is expected to increase in the future.