By Leman Mammadova
Situated at the intersection of transit routes, Azerbaijan is an attractive transport hub for many countries, including Latvia, due to the implementation of infrastructure projects in the region.
Belt and Road Initiative may open up new transit opportunities between Azerbaijan and Latvia, Ralfs Nemiro, Latvian Minister of Economy, told Trend.
Referring to Azerbaijan’s contribution to improving the transport accessibility of Europe, he pointed to the importance of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway.
He described the BTK as an important element for Azerbaijan in the East-West transit corridor and stressed that it will further serve the development of new transit routes from China and Central Asia to southern Europe through Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Black Sea.
BTK plays an important role in the implementation of China's Belt and Road strategy and the International North-South Transport Corridor. The total length of the BTK railway is 846 km, with 504 km running through the territory of Azerbaijan, 263 km - Georgia and 79 km - Turkey.
The opening ceremony of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway was held on October 30, 2017 at the Baku International Sea Trade Port.
Nemiro added that the development of the East-West transit corridor also plays a significant role for Latvia, and the country serves as a gateway to the northern part of Europe through the Baltic Sea.
“Latvia actively develops cooperation with China within Belt and Road Initiative. We launched several container test trains between China and Europe via Latvia, which yielded good results,” he said, adding that Belt and Road initiative, as well as other supply chain routes in Eurasia, could create new opportunities for transit corridors between Azerbaijan and Latvia.
Belt and Road project aims at creating infrastructure and establishing links among the Eurasian countries. The project envisages the creation of trade corridor for direct deliveries of goods from East to West on preferential terms.
Nemiro noted that the existing East-West routes from the Caspian and Black Sea regions can be supplemented by the North-South transport route between the Black Sea and Latvian ports through Ukraine and Belarus to provide access to Northern Europe.
As for Azerbaijan’s role in the energy security of Europe, he underlined the Southern Gas Corridor project.
“Since the Southern Gas Corridor serves to reduce Europe’s dependence on natural gas from Russia and improve energy diversification, Latvia sees this project as a great contribution to strengthening Europe’s energy security,” he noted.
In his words, Latvia welcomes this project and considers it useful for the whole natural gas market in Europe. “New sources and routes of natural gas will benefit the energy market and all consumers.”
The Southern Gas Corridor envisages the transportation of gas to Turkey and Europe through the pipeline, which will be operated within the second stage of the Shah Deniz gas condensate field project in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea.
“Despite the EU’s ambitious climate goals, natural gas will still play an important role in the energy market during the transition to renewable energy, and we hope for a successful cooperation in the future,” Nemiro noted.
Trade relations are one of the main directions of bilateral cooperation between Azerbaijan and Latvia. The trade turnover between Latvia and Azerbaijan increased for more than 20 percent year-on-year amounting to 19.84 million euros in 2018.
Azerbaijan invested $164 million in Latvia, while the Latvia invested $84 million in the economy of Azerbaijan so far. About 40 Latvian companies operate in construction, service, industry, communications, transport, trade, banking and insurance sectors of Azerbaijan.
On July 23, 2018, Azerbaijan's Trading House was opened in Riga, Latvia, aimed at promotion of the “Made in Azerbaijan” brand in the Latvian market. Latvia is currently working to open a similar business venture in Baku.
Leman Mammadova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @leman_888
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