President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's visit to the Chinese capital Beijing, where he attended the Belt and Road for International Cooperation as part of the "One Belt, One Road" (OBOR) initiative launched in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, was highlighted with talks indicating the modern Silk Road will seal the future of trade by linking Asia, Europe, Africa and even South Africa. Accompanying the Turkish president, Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications Minister Ahmet Arslan has announced a project that envisions a caravan consisting of 10 vehicles to carry freight to both Turkey and Europe.
The summit, which convened world leaders, emphasized the necessity for global cooperation and facilitated many agreements that will boost economic ties. For instance, the Chinese president pledged that his country would provide financial support worth approximately $79 billion for the OBOR initiative.Minister Arslan said that the ministry is in talks to launch a caravan project on the modern Silk Road between Turkey and China. "I think it will be useful for a convoy of 10 vehicles to carry cargo to Turkey and Europe via the middle corridor of the Silk Road," he said.
Following his visit to China alongside President Erdoğan, Minister Arslan spoke to Anadolu Agency (AA) regarding talks held during the high-level dialogue session of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, as well as projects on the agenda.
Noting that the Belt and Road Initiative will link countries, major economies and citizens together like the historical Silk Road, Arslan said that as a part of this road, Turkey is at the crossroads of multiple developing economies, raw material resources, energy corridors, trade centers and densely populated consumer markets.
Referring to projects they have been conducting to bring alternatives to the routes between Asia and Europe, Arslan said Turkey's modern Silk Road strategy, also known as the Middle Corridor, aims to link Turkey and China via the Caspian Sea and Central Asian countries, stressing that this line is a safe and economical route that complements existing lines on the east-west axis.
"We are conducting important infrastructure projects regarding the main route both in Turkey and in countries in the region. Upon the completion of the missing lines in the route, an uninterrupted railway line will be established from China to Europe," Arslan said, adding that the Marmaray, which was realized in 2013 to link the continents, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway line to be opened at the end of June and the Edirne-Kars railway line, which is in ongoing collaborative talks with China, are also of great importance.
Transportation on the Silk Road with the 'Caravan' project
Arslan said that while they provided infrastructure connections with mega projects, Turkey also accomplished projects for the improvement of intermodal transport facilities, removing obstacles especially at border crossings. Recalling that an investment of $100 billion has been made in the country's transportation infrastructure in the last 14 years, Arslan pointed out that the government has built new highways, railways, airports and ports.
Highlighting that they completed the missing road connections along the east-west and north-south corridors with highway, tunnel and bridge projects, Arslan also informed that they have collaborated with countries in the region on the development of transit transportation and the elimination of non-physical obstacles.
Arslan stated that they attach great importance to the Land Transport Agreement signed with China at the Belt and Road Forum. "If my Chinese counterpart agrees, I think it would be beneficial to launch the Caravan project between China and Turkey, and to carry freight transport to Turkey and Europe via a convoy of 10 vehicles in the middle corridor of the Silk Road," Arslan said, indicating that they can identify possible problems, obstacles and difficulties on the route with a trial run which will also have a significant contribution on the revitalization of the road.
'We are aware of the importance of our ports'
Underlining that marine transport is an important module of transport for Eurasia connections, Arslan said that the Turkish straits provide a connection between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, adding that Turkish ports offer access to the Atlantic Ocean via the Gibraltar Strait, as well as access to the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian Ocean via the Suez Canal.He emphasized that they are aware of the importance of Turkish ports, informing that there are two big hub port projects - Çandarlı with an annual capacity of 4 million TEU and Filyos with an annual capacity of 25 million tons - which they would like to realize on the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea coast. "We believe that within the framework of both our country's geographical position, investments in the maritime field and our vision, Turkey should also take part in the maritime branch of the OBOR initiative, providing an open door to Europe," Arslan said, adding that they are open to all kinds of regional and bilateral collaborations amid efforts to realize the modern Silk Road, which will contribute to the economic, informational and cultural wealth of the world.