MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Afghanistan opened the latest in a series of air cargo trade corridors on Wednesday with the inauguration of a route linking the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif with Istanbul and destinations in Europe.
An initial flight, carrying five tonnes of dried fruit, was sent on a Turkish Airlines flight to London, following similar routes carrying dried fruit and other products to India and China, where an inaugural cargo of pine nuts was sent in November.
“The air corridor has been one of the effective programs of the national unity government for export development,” said deputy commerce and industry minister Zohoruddin Shirzada.
“Given that Afghanistan is a landlocked country, we must have alternatives,” he said.
Mazar-i-Sharif is one of Afghanistan’s most prosperous and economically powerful cities, already a major business hub because of its proximity to the Hairatan border crossing into Uzbekistan.
Afghan officials say the air corridor program, aimed at opening up an alternative to the land route from the Pakistani port of Karachi, has carried exports of more than $100 million since it opened up in 2017.
The new air corridor follows the opening last month of the so-called Lapis Lazuli corridor, a road, rail and sea route from western Afghanistan to Turkey and Europe, part of President Ashraf Ghani’s push to build up Afghanistan’s trade connections.
Reporting by Abdul Matin Sahak; writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Nick Macfie