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New Impetus in Azerbaijan’s Relations With Countries of Central Asia

President Ilham Aliyev visited Tajikistan, during which the head of state took part at the 5th Consultative Meeting of the Heads of State of Central Asia as the guest of honour. In the context of this visit, it is necessary to analyze several key points that will highlight the importance of the participation of President Ilham Aliyev.

Let’s start with the fact that President Ilham Aliyev became the first head of state in history from outside the region to receive an invitation to a summit of regional countries. The very fact of such an invitation from the countries of Central Asia, which in recent years have significantly increased their authority and importance on the world agenda, indicates a significant level of high respect and trust that is shown to President Ilham Aliyev.

And this should not come as a surprise. Of course, in many ways global politics is a reflection of life and follows similar rules. Heads of state, like all people, prefer and enjoy doing business with colleagues whom they respect and trust. The systematic policy pursued by Azerbaijan makes the country a reliable partner, whose behavior is assessed as rational and amenable to analysis. And predictability of policy is not a negative aspect; on the contrary, it instills peace of mind in foreign heads of state and allows them to build relationships with minimal risks.

The second point that needs to be emphasized is related to the increasing influence of Azerbaijan in recent years. And if we have repeatedly said that Azerbaijan is becoming an important partner for Western countries, due to Baku’s contribution to the energy security and economic growth of the old continent, then the topic of the importance of Azerbaijan for the countries of Central Asia deserves more detailed consideration. Recent changes in global politics, especially tensions in Eastern Europe, are creating significant constraints on the operations of European companies. The logistics disruption between Europe and China has become one of the biggest challenges that companies in both Asia and Europe are trying to solve.

Against the backdrop of these events, a serious need has arisen for the use of alternative logistics and transport routes. The main hope was the Middle Corridor, which would become a bridge from Europe to China. Azerbaijan and the countries of Central Asia play a special role in this route due to their strategic geographical location. And it is cooperation between Azerbaijan and the countries of Central Asia that is a key element for the functioning of the transport route. President Ilham Aliyev noted in his speech that Azerbaijan’s opportunities in the field of transport and logistics are available to the countries of Central Asia:

“Our brothers in Central Asia know that Azerbaijan’s entire transportation and logistics infrastructure is available to them,” the head of state noted.

In the context of the speech of President Ilham Aliyev, it is important to note specific areas of work in the development of the country’s transport potential. In particular, President Ilham Aliyev emphasized the work on modernizing the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and expanding the capabilities of the shipyard: “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 head of state emphasized.

Having considered the speech of President Ilham Aliyev, it becomes clear that the development of railway and sea transport are two elements of a single strategy. Thus, Baku will be able to provide a greater volume of traffic along the Middle Corridor, which will have a beneficial effect on the economy of Azerbaijan, and will also give impetus to the economic growth of other countries participating in the route. Ultimately, this will lead to improved trade performance between countries.

This brings us to the fact that Azerbaijan and the countries of Central Asia are important countries for each other not only in the field of transport cooperation. Of course, the presence of joint large strategic projects is an important step that allows us to move mutual relations to a higher level. However, the foundation of all subsequent achievements is mutual trade. In modern politics, trade is the foundation on which long-term relationships are built, and therefore it is not surprising that President Ilham Aliyev has focused on issues of trade and investment.

“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,” President Ilham Aliyev said.

Thus, Azerbaijan and the countries of Central Asia remain important partners for each other, whose relations extend to a large number of important areas, including investment, trade, transport, agriculture and others. President Ilham Aliyev’s participation at the Dushanbe summit, as the first-ever invited head of state from outside the region, highlights the strategic nature of the relationship between Azerbaijan and the brotherly countries of Central Asia and will no doubt create additional opportunities for expanded cooperation in the future.