Baku-Tbilisi partnership guarantees stable development for S.Caucasus
By Sara Rajabova
Better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away. This saying is fully compatible with the relations between close neighbors and partners - Azerbaijan and Georgia.
Azerbaijan and Georgia, which enjoy strong historical ties and strategic partnership, have brought the cooperation in various fields to a higher level in recent years.
The two countries are united by expansion of international relations, establishment of relative political stability in the Caucasus and ensuring Transcaucasia and Trans-Caspian security.
The cooperation in the energy and transportation fields is one of main areas of collaboration between Baku and Tbilisi.
Georgia, which is one of the closest allies of Azerbaijan in the region, is an active participant of the large-scale international economic projects initiated by Azerbaijan. The country has also proved that it is a reliable partner. The two countries cooperate within the framework of the global energy, transport and communication projects such as Baku-Supsa, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipelines and TRACECA highway.
Energy and economic cooperation was one of main areas of discussion during the recent visit of Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister to Georgia.
During the meeting with Georgian officials, Mammadyarov pointed out that realization of vital energy and transportation projects has great importance for both countries and the entire region. He added that large-scale energy and transport infrastructure projects serve for strengthening of independence and the development of the two countries and the whole region.
“The energy and transportation projects, such as Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars ensure the development and prosperity of Azerbaijan and Georgia and the whole region,” Mammadyarov said.
The two neighboring countries also enjoy a close cooperation in the implementation of Southern Gas Corridor project, which is one of the main energy projects for the EU.
The project is aimed at diversification of routes and sources of energy supplies. It increases EU’s energy security by supplying Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz gas to Europe.
Azerbaijani gas will flow through Georgia’s territory to Turkey after the implementation of TANAP project and then, following the realization of TAP project, from there it will be delivered to Europe, which is too dependent on a single source of energy.
Mammadyarov stressed Georgia's importance as a transport country for Azerbaijan's energy projects. "Azerbaijani gas will be transported to Europe in 2018-2019 through Georgia’s territory as well, and we closely cooperate in this sphere," he said.
Georgian Premier Irakli Garibashvili voiced his country’s commitment to implementation of above mentioned projects.
“Georgia, as a reliable partner, remains deeply committed to the implementation of TANAP and TAP projects, as it was the case with the previous large-scale energy and transportation projects, he said.
Along with the bilateral format, the countries together with Turkey are cooperating in the trilateral format. Such a strategic partnership between the states possesses the utmost importance for the development of the region.
One of the important projects implemented by the states is the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project, which is scheduled to be commissioned in 2015. This project will significantly impact the economic situation in the region and will serve to intensifying the transaction between interested countries and involve more regional countries to project in future.
"BTK project bears a geostrategic importance. We believe that Central Asian countries and Afghanistan will show their interest in this project,” Mammadyarov said during a joint press conference with his Georgian counterpart Tamar Beruchashvili in Tbilisi on February 19.
Alongside the economic benefits, BTK project will also bring peace and stability to the region, Mammadyarov believes.
Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is being constructed based on a trilateral intergovernmental agreement between Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. The highest cargo capacity of the corridor will be 17 million metric tons per year. At the initial stage, the figure will be equal to one million passengers and 6.5 million metric tons of cargo.
However, Mammadyarov further added, the frozen conflicts in the region are hindering the development of both Azerbaijan and Georgia. The minister also emphasized Armenia's aggression, which is a source of tension in the South Caucasus region.
"The Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has hindered not only Azerbaijan's development, but also pushed Armenia into a deadlock, since Yerevan remains far from large-scale regional projects,” Mammadyarov said.
Azerbaijan and Georgia, which suffer from the conflicts, separatism and occupation, have always supported each other’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of internationally recognized borders.
The Azerbaijani and Georgian officials also discussed mutual investments during Mammadyarov’s visit to neighboring country.
“During the meeting with my Azerbaijani counterpart, we also discussed the benefits that Azerbaijani investors will get in wake of the signing of a comprehensive free trade agreement between Georgia and EU,” Beruchashvili said.
The volume of mutual trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Georgia is more than $1 billion. Azerbaijan is one of the main investor and creditor countries in Georgia, while SOCAR is one of the big taxpayer companies of Georgia’s budget.
SOCAR’s activity in Georgia’s sea ports, fuel stations opened in this country’s regions and other works are the major contribution to the economy of this country.
Azerbaijani companies are investing large sums in other areas in Georgia. Azerbaijani businessmen are interested in the tourism field in neighboring country.
Georgian businessmen are also showing interest in the Azerbaijani economy and allocate investments in the implementation of various projects in the country.
Azerbaijan-Georgia relations are currently developing in a level of exemplary cooperation, as a result of the successful implementation of good neighborhood policy by these states. The relations, which are based on mutual respect, trust and equal partnership have become a guarantor of successful and stable development of the two countries.