Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Landmark agreement on Asian Highway Network signed in Shanghai
SHANGHAI: Asian governments on Monday signed a landmark UN-brokered
agreement to complete a massive international highway network that officials
hope will rival the ancient Silk Road.
Twenty-three nations signed the agreement to set up a highway network that
will link Tokyo with Singapore, Istanbul and St Petersburg in some 140,000
kilometres of routes stretching across the Asian continent.
The agreement was signed at the ongoing meeting of the United Nations
Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and will go
into effect 90 days after eight countries ratify the pact.
`This 140,000-kilometre highway will contribute tremendously to regional
economic integration,’ ESCAP Executive Secretary Kim Hak-Su told reporters.
`All 32 countries have agreed in principle to sign but it will depend on
passing this agreement internally through each country, so not everyone
(was) ready to sign.’
The agreement is necessary partly to determine the details of the network,
from their precise routes to ensuring that each one of the 55 approved
routes meet standards and that road signs are regularized.
ESCAP said it anticipated that Asian landlocked countries, including Bhutan,
Laos, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal and Uzbekistan, would benefit
most from the new roads by gaining better access to ports.
`For landlocked countries, the highway portends a revival of the
cross-continent access that the legendary Silk Route provided in the early
part of the first millennium,’ it said in a press release.
The agreement in Shanghai will outline roads to be built and upgraded and
establish minimum standards for the highway routes, while an overall budget
and time-frame for completion are expected to be announced in 2006.
The main route Asian Highway 1 is expected to start in Tokyo and terminate
in Istanbul, passing though North and South Korea, China, Vietnam, Cambodia,
Thailand, Myanmar, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Armenia along the
way. A trunk route will extend through St Petersburg to Russia’s border with
Finland. – AFP