Caspian Economic Forum: a brand new promising cooperation format

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Baku, 14 August 2019 –

Experts highlight the global geopolitical importance of the Caspian basin. And what is of particular significance here apart from security in the region, is the issue of cooperation. The signing of a set of documents on the legal status of the Caspian Sea in 2018 opened brand new opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation. In this regard, the Caspian Economic Forum is of particular interest as a unique cooperation format. Held in Turkmenistan, the first Economic Forum gathered high-level representatives from both the Caspian littoral states and several other countries. This means that this cooperation format may win serious global support. This thesis seems to be much more convincing taking into account the views expressed at the forum. This article will give an insight into the Caspian Economic Forum from geopolitical, economic and security aspects.

Global security and regional integration: mutual ties

Regional integration is nowadays seen as one of the key elements of global security. As the world is globalizing, the necessity is growing for encouraging sustainable development, stability and security in different regions. It is a well-known fact that the Caspian basin is of crucial global importance for a number of reasons. For centuries the Caspian region has enjoyed global attention due to political, geopolitical, economic, energy and culture factors. And its significance has grown considerably in early 21st century.

There are three key reasons for that. Firstly, the Caspian region has vast energy resources, a factor that impacts greatly on the global energy security. Secondly, the geopolitical reality is that superpowers are locked in an intense struggle for the Caspian. Thirdly, the independent Caspian littoral states are now laying a legal framework for a brand new model of cooperation. These three factors make the Caspian-related issues extremely significant for both experts, politicians and business communities.

The Caspian Economic Forum was therefore of great importance in terms of many aspects. The first forum took place in Turkmenistan on August 12-13. Participants in the forum included Azerbaijan`s Prime Minister Novruz Mammadov, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, First Vice-President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Eshag Jahangiri, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Askar Mamin. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and Uzbek Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov attended the forum as guests. Bank executives and representatives of the business sector, researchers and heads of economic think tanks also joined the forum.

The agenda of the event included a number of issues, including the development of trade and economic relations, implementation of large scale projects, and the strategic importance of the global role of the economy of the Caspian region. Participants also discussed the ways of attracting investments in the areas of mutual interest for the Caspian littoral states (for example, oil and gas, electricity, transport, trade, agriculture, tourism, etc.).

The forum also featured an international conference and an exhibition, as well as B2B meetings. In fact, the Caspian Economic Forum was organized as a full-format event where serious discussions were held. This means that participating states took a serious approach to the goals set at the forum and believe in its future. It was confirmed by the views expressed at the forum.

Addressing the opening ceremony of the First Caspian Economic Forum, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev made interesting remarks. He pointed out a "special'' task of the forum "to complement the multi-level system of cooperation within the framework of the "Caspian Five'' with an effective and modern mechanism of business, trade and economic interaction, reinforce important policy decisions with specific, mutually beneficial projects''.

Dmitry Medvedev said that for the Caspian littoral countries oil and gas is a geostrategic advantage and one of the most important areas of cooperation. "But the modern economy is not only oil and gas production. Digital technologies, clean energy, rational nature management, free movement of goods and services – these are what today make the country strong and competitive. And we, the Caspian states, should not be left out of these trends''.

Azerbaijan and Caspian littoral states: toward a new level of cooperation

Azerbaijani Prime Minister Novruz Mammadov`s remarks at the forum were particularly interesting. The Prime Minister said Azerbaijan welcomed the initiative to hold the First Caspian Economic Forum. He expressed belief that this forum would become a new format for enhancing cooperation between the Caspian countries.

This thesis matches completely with the logic, essence and goals of the Azerbaijani leadership`s attitude to regional cooperation. Official Baku demonstrated that it considers the Caspian Economic Forum as a format of sustainable mutually beneficial, promising and long-term cooperation. This emphasizes the Azerbaijani leadership`s deep interest in cooperating with the Caspian littoral states and readiness to put serious political will in ensuring success of this cooperation. In other words, Azerbaijan is a peace loving, democratic country, which is completely open for cooperation.

The Azerbaijani Prime Minister said: "After the signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea in 2018, the issue of economic development of the Caspian region became particularly relevant. In this context, the Caspian Economic Forum is of great importance. The forum will give an additional boost to the cooperation in the fields of trade, transport, investment and tourism''. Novruz Mammadov described the Caspian Exhibition of Innovative Technologies held as part of the forum as "a remarkable and significant event''. "Such exhibitions will contribute to the expansion of economic relations between the business communities of our countries and the improvement of information content in the region, and the organization of meetings between entrepreneurs in general will play a significant role in ensuring the prosperity of the region''.

The Prime Minister said Azerbaijan was contributing actively to the programs, different transnational projects and logistic services that involve the Caspian littoral states. "For the first half of 2019, Azerbaijan’s trade with the Caspian littoral states increased by more than 28 percent compared to last year. Over the same period, the share of the Caspian states in the foreign trade of the country amounted to more than 11 percent''.

Novruz Mammadov said that ensuring the development of international and regional transport corridors plays an important role in improving the effectiveness of the regional economy. "Joint projects in the fields of transport, infrastructure and logistics expand the economic opportunities and significance of our states''.

"Azerbaijan is very actively cooperating in the implementation of such international projects, in particular East-West and North-South. For example, in 2018, transit goods with a total weight of more than 9 million tons were transported through the territory of our country. Particularly, a big growth was observed in the transit of non-oil products, which amounted to 49 percent. There was a jump in volumes of transit of goods along the North-South route by 8 times. These figures prove once again that transit routes continue to expand, trade is increasing, which ultimately leads to the prosperity of the whole region''.

The Caspian Economic Forum is a very important cooperation model. And Azerbaijan welcomes such steps. At the same time, the country`s leadership is making active efforts in this regard, and is completely open for any cooperation format based on mutual respect and confidence. In this context, Azerbaijan boasts quite rich experience. And Prime Minister Novruz Mammadov`s speech at the First Caspian Economic Forum is one of the factors that confirm this.

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