Turkmenistan officially joins the INSTC
The Russian government has agreed to have Turkmenistan join the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC). The addition of Turkmenistan offers an alternative route on the eastern branch of the corridor that would bypass Azerbaijan.
The new initiative was announced last week when, according to various media including Russian state agency Tass, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed the official document. After this, Iran, another founding member of the INSTC, was also notified of the decision.
Shipping cargo via the eastern branch of the INSTC via Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan is becoming a preferred option. This is because it allows bypassing Azerbaijan, where political instability and lack of infrastructure make establishing an efficient transport corridor harder. The first shipments on this route began in July 2022, with test trains carrying fertilisers as well as fuel. With Turkmenistan officially joining the INSTC, transport routes on the eastern branch of the corridor are likely to be further consolidated.
Russia and Turkmenistan
The incorporation of Turkmenistan into the INSTC was certainly not a sudden move. Already in August 2022, India, Russia, and Iran signed a Memorandum of Understanding to add the Turkmen port of Turkembashi to the corridor. Moreover, in December, the two countries discussed the possibility of opening a Russian Railways (RZD) office in Turkmenistan and a Turkmen Railways office in Russia. In April, the railway companies of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan formed a new joint venture to operate rail freight services on the eastern branch of the INSTC.