By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) - A hero’s welcome was given to a group of Afghan cyclists in the capital Kabul, as they returned on Wednesday after pedaling all the way to Turkey on the historical Lapis Lazuli corridor.
As part of the 10-member Turkish-Afghan Friendship Cycling Tour, the cyclists started their journey from Herat province in Afghanistan on April 19.
The tour aimed to revive the 2,000-year-old Lapis Lazuli corridor, an international route linking Turkey and Afghanistan via Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
“As a citizen of Afghanistan, I played my part in highlighting the significance of this historical trade route and spreading the message of love, peace and harmony,” Mohammad Siddiq, the group leader, told reporters in Kabul.
“We were warmly welcomed by the Afghan and Turkish officials in Istanbul and they assured their full support for future endeavors," Siddiq added.
The Afghan cyclists pedaled through over 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles) in Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia to the World Peace Park in the Besiktas district of Istanbul last week.
“Our relations are not just based on economics,” said Zakaria Barakzai, Afghan consul general in Istanbul, after the arrival of the bikers. “Our strong cultural ties come from the past.”
Named after Afghanistan’s precious gemstone, the Lapis Lazuli Route agreement was finalized after three years of talks among the partner countries Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.
It was signed last year during the 7th Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA-VII) in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.