Ashgabat agreements: Azerbaijan opens new horizons for cooperation

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Baku, 30 November 2018 –

The Azerbaijani President`s visit to the Turkmen capital of Ashgabat on November 21-22 is still in the spotlight. There were certain problems in the two countries` relationship several years ago. But now the whole world witnesses that all the problems were solved. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev played a crucial role in this. With his patience, rational and far-sighted policy, the Azerbaijani leader prevented the problem from deteriorating into a standoff. The two brotherly countries are already working on programs for deepening and expanding their strategic relations. It was witnessed by a number of agreements signed in the capital of Turkmenistan. In this article, we will highlight geopolitical and economic aspects of President Ilham Aliyev`s visit and their relation to communications and transport sector.

New era: Baku-Ashgabat relations growing

It is no secret that Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan relations were fraught with difficulties at some point that stemmed from uncertainty about the status of the Caspian Sea and its energy resources. More precisely, Turkmenistan did not want to accept Azerbaijan`s right stand. And neighbours who were adding fuel to the fire should not be forgotten. It was national leader Heydar Aliyev`s and President Ilham Aliyev`s wisdom and patience that helped gradually solve the problem. And the documents on the status legal status of the Caspian Sea have made a positive impact on the situation.

In addition, there is another factor that played a crucial geopolitical role in improving relations between the two brotherly countries. It is a trilateral format of cooperation, which was established on President Ilham Aliyev`s initiative. It is Azerbaijan-Turkey-Turkmenistan cooperation format. Discussions among heads of state of the three countries gave a strong impetus to the development of bilateral relations in all areas. This format of cooperation has yielded fruits. World media and experts say Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan relationship has already reached the level of strategic partnership. The Azerbaijani President`s visit to Ashgabat on November 21-22 cemented this opinion. Ilham Aliyev`s another historic visit was a success.

First of all, it should be emphasized that the visit was initiated by Turkmenistan. Ilham Aliyev accepted the invitation with great respect. The success of the visit, the discussions held and agreements signed proved that the Azerbaijani leader made a right decision. Ilham Aliyev was given a very warm and high-level welcome in Turkmenistan. The President`s fruitful proposals and statements proved sincerity of his intention to elevate Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan relationship to a new level. Both leaders underlined that Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan are bound together by historical and cultural ties, ethnic roots and traditions. This is indicative of a serious foundation for developing cooperation between the two countries. Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan share similar views on geopolitical, economic, trade, transport and security issues as well as principal foreign policy matters. Commenting on this, the President of Turkmenistan said: "As for foreign policy, our principles are similar or the same. In other words, we are in favor of preserving stability and security not only in the region but also in the world. We are grateful to you for supporting all the initiatives of Turkmenistan in the international arena which proceed from our neutral status.” (see: Azerbaijani, Turkmen presidents held expanded meeting / AZERTAC, 22 November, 2018).

The Azerbaijani leader highlighted priorities of cooperation between the two countries. Ilham Aliyev said: "Bilateral cooperation between our countries develops in many directions. I am sure that we will continue to support each other in international organizations, as has been the case so far. Today, in a one-on-one meeting, we already discussed many important issues of our cooperation and will continue discussions within the framework of delegations. We have identified the main directions of our future cooperation and the priorities.” (see: previous source).

Another success of strategic partnership: New Silk Road and Lapis Lazuli Corridor

The documents signed in Ashgabat once again confirmed the reasonableness of the statements made by the heads of state. The bilateral documents cover almost all areas, including economy, trade, transport, communication and technologies, science, education, energy and others. The agreements aim to develop relations and strengthen cooperation between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan in economic, trade and transport fields. The presidents comprehensively discussed the strategic aspect of cooperation between the two brotherly states.

Experts highlight very interesting points of the Azerbaijani President`s visit. They note that Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan relations have reached a qualitatively new level. A special emphasis is put on communications sector. (see: Лазуритовый коридор связал Ашхабад и Баку: Энергетические проекты уступили место транспортным / "Независимая газета", 22 November, 2018). Experts points out high prospects of transport cooperation between the two countries as part of Lapis Lazuli Corridor project. The agreement to launch the project was signed by Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey in Ashgabat on November 15. The name of the project, Lapis lazuli, means a deep blue metamorphic rock historically mined in Afghanistan. The route will involve motor and railway infrastructure.

Experts believe the documents signed in Ashgabat will deepen relations between the two countries under the New Silk Road project, a rail transport route stretching from China to Europe through Azerbaijan. Thanks to its flexible and wise policy, Azerbaijan solved another geopolitically important problem – Armenia`s claims relating to the New Silk Road projects ended in fiasco.

The Armenian leaders were making absurd claims that the new transport corridor starting in China will pass through Armenia and that Azerbaijan is incapable of preventing this. But Azerbaijan handed Armenia another defeat by signing South-West project with Iran and Lapis Lazuli project with Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Georgia and Turkey. The New Silk Road project can therefore run through Central Asia and Azerbaijan. This point was the highlight of the historic agreements signed in Ashgabat.

Another important issue is that the two countries agreed to cooperate in the Caspian basin. Experts emphasize that half of the agreements signed in the capital of Turkmenistan directly addressed cooperation in the Caspian Sea (see: previous source). Baku and Ashgabat managed to solve years-old problem. This can facilitate Turkmenistan`s involvement in TANAP and other energy projects and realization of the idea of a Caspian submarine pipeline.

All these factors evidence that the Azerbaijani President`s visit to Turkmenistan can be considered as a landmark stage in the national state-building process. The development of Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan relations in line with international law will make considerable contribution to regional cooperation and security. Azerbaijan is transforming into a transport and energy hub in the Caspian basin. Baku`s role in implementing international projects is growing. Azerbaijan enjoys mutually fruitful cooperation will all Caspian littoral states. Ilham Aliyev`s Ashgabat visit testified to Azerbaijan`s successfully fulfilling its geopolitical role as an independent state. Baku is the linchpin of all international projects being implemented in the region. And this role will continue to grow thanks to the Azerbaijani President`s efforts.

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