TASHKENT (Reuters) – Turkmenistan has allowed international cargo transportation between Uzbekistan and Iran through its territory to be performed by foreign drivers in an escorted convoy starting this month, the Uzbek Transport Ministry said Monday.
Opening up new shipping routes has become an essential task for Central Asian nations that traditionally relied on Russia for much of their cargo transit and have had logistics disrupted by Western sanctions against Moscow.
Since the COVID-19 restrictions imposed in 2020, Uzbek cargo containers bound for Europe and Southeast Asia via Iran’s seaports were delivered to the Turkmen border to be shipped to the Iranian border only by Turkmen drivers as Turkmenistan sought to let in as few foreigners as possible.
“It caused many difficulties and delays due to the technical process of attaching containers to other trucks and usually drivers were frustrated by having to hand over their cargo to other drivers,” the ministry told Reuters.
According to the new procedure set by Turkmen authorities, cargo trucks from Uzbekistan to Iran and vice versa must strictly move in a convoy while crossing Turkmen territory and will be escorted by Turkmen road police at all times.
They will stop for refueling and other necessities at places designated by Turkmen authorities. Drivers will not be allowed to leave the vehicles in other places and will need PCR tests for COVID-19 or a certificate of coronavirus vaccination.
Iran’s seaports serve landlocked Central Asian countries as an alternative route to world markets. Iran is also one of Uzbekistan’s important and traditional trading partners and the two countries plan to sign a preferential trade agreement.
(Reporting by Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov; Editing by David Goodman)