Azerbaijan as most reliable partner of East and West
Azerbaijan is a state with an important economic and strategic position not only in Europe, but also among Asian countries. However, this importance is more distinguished by its historical and national connections.
Having visited Tajikistan at the special invitation of Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon, today, President Ilham Aliyev attended the 5th Consultative Meeting of the Heads of State of Central Asia as the guest of honour in the capital Dushanbe. The head of state also emphasized these points while speaking at the meeting.
"Azerbaijan and the countries of Central Asia are bound by the centuries-long brotherhood ties of our peoples. Shared cultural roots are the solid foundation of interstate relations.”
The head of state added that in the last three decades, Azerbaijan, together with the Central Asian states, has always shown solidarity and supported each other in the economic, political and cultural fields.
"For over 30 years, as independent states, we actively engage both in bilateral and multilateral formats. We support each other's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and actively develop economic ties."
The head of state also added: "With growing economy, demographics and geopolitical potential, Central Asia and Azerbaijan is a single historical and cultural geographic region of strategic significance in world politics," President Ilham Aliyev emphasized.
Azerbaijan is the gateway of Central Asia to Europe
This emphasis of President Ilham Aliyev also indicates the future perspective of a large strategic project that will span between east and west. As well as being a reliable and sustainable partner for the West, Azerbaijan is also the closest and most important strategic partner country for Central Asia, especially in terms of its transport routes.
At the 5th Consultative Meeting, the President emphasized this and noted that Azerbaijan is also the gateway of Central Asia to Turkiye and Europe.
"For the Central Asian countries, Azerbaijan is a reliable transit country along the route to the markets of Turkiye and Europe," the President said.
But all this is not limited to only with the importance of Azerbaijan as a transport corridor. As Azerbaijan is also a littoral state among several Central Asian states, its logistical capabilities are great. In this regard, Central Asian companies are evaluating the opportunities in Azerbaijan. President Ilham Aliyev noted in his speech that Azerbaijan is always open to Central Asia to benefit from these opportunities.
“Not of the least significance is the transit in the opposite direction. Our brothers in Central Asia know that Azerbaijan’s entire transportation and logistics infrastructure is available to them,” the head of state added.
Central Asian companies eyeing Alat Free Economic Zone
With favourable conditions created in the 850-hectare area, Alat Free Economic Zone with its strategic geographic position near the Baku International Sea Trade Port and on global transport corridors, including the East-West and North-South International Transport Corridors has potential of establishing a more sustainable, export-oriented and competitive national economy.
In his speech at the 5th Consultative Meeting of the Heads of State of Central Asia, President Ilham Aliyev also touched on the importance of the Alat Free Economic Zone which is going to be at service of investors.
These interests already exist, and as President Ilham Aliyev emphasized, it is important to mutually evaluate this possibility.
“The growth of mutual trade and investments is one of the key factors of the bilateral cooperation. It is gratifying that the figures in both of those directions indicate consistent growth. Last year the trade turnover of Azerbaijan with the Central Asian countries increased more than 3 times. During 7 months of this year – for another 50%. Joint investment funds have been established, and with over $1 billion of investments for the coming 3 years have been agreed. We are already implementing many projects in the sphere of industrial cooperation, machine-building, automobile industry, shipbuilding and agriculture, namely cotton production, sericulture, horticulture and livestock farming. Investment projects in hotel business and tourism are at the initial stage of implementation. We see the interest of Central Asian companies in the Alat Free Economic Zone established recently in Azerbaijan,” the Azerbaijani President underlined.
President Ilham Aliyev also spoke about the strategic importance of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway extending to the West. The head of state noted that the 826 km long railway is currently being further modernized by the state of Azerbaijan.
“We are modernizing the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway to meet the rising demand for cargo transportation through the East-West route. The cargo volume via that road will be increased from 1 to 5 million tons. In parallel to that, the capacity of the Baku Trade Port is also being expanded from current 15 to 25 million tons,” the head of state noted,” the President added.
In addition, the head of state also spoke about the expansion of cargo capacity in the Caspian Sea. The President noted that Azerbaijan has the largest trade fleet in the Caspian Sea with over 50 vessels, adding that this will be increased due to growing needs.
“Given the growing demand of the shippers from Central Asia, we are actively working on expanding the capabilities of our shipyard. Upon the completion of investment projects, the number of manufactured tankers and dry cargo vessels will be increased from current 6 to 10-15 vessels annually,” the President said.
Thus, the results of the meeting once again show that Azerbaijan is one of the most important and strategic centers for both Europe and Central Asia. This is possible not only due to the geostrategic importance of the country, but also thanks to the continuous economic reforms of President Ilham Aliyev. In the near future, Azerbaijan is preparing to play the role of connecting the east and the west as the most leading segment of a big project - the Middle Corridor. Undoubtedly, the existing obstacles on this path will lose their importance in the face of its growing influence.
Elnur Enveroglu is AzerNews’ deputy editor-in-chief, follow him on @ElnurMammadli1
Follow us on Twitter @AzerNewsAz