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Baku, 20 April 2021 – Newtimes.az

The Zangezur corridor can boost the development of transport links within the Turkic Council

In the next two decades, a completely new transport network will be developed in the vast Turkic community. It will serve the interests of both the member states and external players. This is manifested in the speeches of the heads of state participating in the informal summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking States (Turkic Council).

Summit of Turkic perspectives

On March 31, at the initiative of the first president of Kazakhstan, honorary chairman of the Turkic Council Nursultan Nazarbayev, an informal summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States (CCTS) was held as a video conference. The purpose of the meeting was to determine the prospects for the development of the organisation in the coming years in order to ensure the transformation of the Turkic world into one of the most significant economic and cultural spaces of the Eurasian continent, as well as to elect Turkestan as one of the spiritual capitals of the Turkic world.

Turkestan is a city located at the intersection of key transport routes in Central Asia, in the northern part of the Eurasian continent. It was part of the route network known in history as the Great Silk Road. The election of Turkestan as the spiritual capital of the Turkic world now has a new symbolic meaning. After all, the New Silk Road also passes through this city. Turkestan thus becomes a mini-model of the Turkic world, a transport hub for Greater Eurasia.

It is important to note the value and expedience of the idea of developing a strategy for the CCTS activities called Turkic Vision-2040 approved at the summit, which is expected to be adopted at the next summit of the Council this fall in Turkey. In light of the proposal to raise the status of the council to the level of an organisation, as well as the adoption of its strategy for the medium term, ambitious plans to improve transport links take on special meaning.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has greatly reduced the intensity of economic ties between countries. But fortunately, this less effected the intensity of cargo transportation through multimodal transport routes from Central Asia to the South Caucasus and Asia Minor.

According to statistics, the total mutual trade between the member states of the Turkic Council reaches about $17 billion, with Azerbaijan and Turkey being the leaders of trade operations (more than $4 billion by the end of 2020). The second and third places belong to Kazakh-Turkish and Uzbek-Kazakh trade (about $3 billion).

Therefore, it is important to develop transport communications between the Turkic countries to service the ever-increasing volume of mutual trade.

Zangezur corridor: driver of development

"The war is over and has become history. Now we have new opportunities in front of us. The most important one of them are transport opportunities'', President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said explaining to his colleagues the importance of the Zangezur transport corridor in terms of the transport strategy of the Turkic Council.

Like many centuries ago, Azerbaijan becomes an important transport hub providing a reliable connection between the western and eastern poles of the Turkic world. Transport, communication, infrastructure projects passing through Zangezur will unite the entire Turkic world, as well as create additional opportunities for other countries, including Armenia.

Although Zangezur was transferred to Armenia due to historical injustice a hundred years ago, for many years it has been inhabited by ethnic Azerbaijanis. Then they were expelled from the region thirty-five years ago at the initial stage of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Daghlig Garabagh conflict. Expulsion of Azerbaijanis from Zangezur also disrupted the communication between the western districts of Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.

But now, after the victory of the Azerbaijani Army, this communication line is being restored. Moreover, the Zangezur corridor includes not only railway, but also automobile communication.

As to railway communication, first on the agenda is the reconstruction of the Horadiz-Agbend highway, followed by the Zangezur (or Meghri) section (44 km long), Armenia-Ordubad border section (11 km), as well as the Ordubad-Nakhchivan-Yerevan and Yerevan-Gyumri-Kars lines. Certainly, the Julfa railway crossing, which connects the railways of the South Caucasus and Iran, will also operate under the new conditions.

In 2020, the construction of the Kars-Igdir railway has started as well. It is planned to be connected with Nakhchivan. This will make it possible to make the Turkish city of Kars an important transport link in the region. After all, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars, as well as Nakhchivan-Kars (in the future) railways will dock in it.

It is also important to restore the automobile traffic through the Zangezurs corridor, as well as the Nakhchivan-Shahbuz-Goris-Lachin-Khankendi-Aghdam-Barda-Yevlakh highway. It runs through the northern part of Zangezur and connects various geographic regions.

By the way, President Ilham Aliyev noted that presently Armenia does not have a railway connection with its ally Russia. "This connection can be created through the territory of Azerbaijan. Armenia also does not have a railway connection with neighbouring Iran. We can ensure this communication through Nakhchivan,'' Ilham Aliyev said. He also indicated that Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic ensures Azerbaijan’s connection with Turkey, and Central Asia’s with Europe.

"We are creating a new transport corridor. Azerbaijan has already started the works. I am sure that the partner countries will also take advantage of these opportunities,” President Aliyev said.

Message supported by the Turkic countries

The words of President Aliyev were almost unanimously supported by his Turkic colleagues. This is understandable, as today the CCTS states are implementing large-scale transport and logistics projects designed to ensure their reliable communication with the outside world. Most of the Turkic countries, except for Turkey, do not have direct access to oceans. And for the delivery of their products to foreign markets, as well as for the implementation of import operations, they mainly use land transport and air traffic.

Since many Turkic countries have their main trading partners in the West, in particular in Western Europe, then the importance of the East-West multimodal transport corridor is increasing in many respects. The Zangezur corridor is an integral part of the East-West route, one of the main ones for the Central Asian states.

It is no coincidence that the first president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, highly appreciated the peace agreement between Baku and Yerevan and said that it would allow to revive the Great Silk Road in this direction, increasing the role of the Caspian Sea.

According to Mr. Nazarbayev, the Zangezur corridor and the western route open up new opportunities for the Turkic countries to effectively use the advantages of China's One Belt, One Road initiative. "The Trans-Caspian International Transport Corridor (or Turan Corridor) is becoming the safest and shortest trade route between Europe and Asia,'' Nursultan Nazarbayev emphasized.

Apparently, for Kazakhstan, where the development of transport communications is one of the key conditions for the socio-economic development of the country and its individual regions in recent decades, it is necessary to establish close ties with neighbouring countries and regions. This will increase the efficiency of Kazakhstan’s own transport network.

The Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov also noted that his country has taken steps to upgrade its transport and communication system to modern standards and to form transport and transit corridors at the international and regional levels. This will help to consolidate the efforts of the international community.

For Uzbekistan, the development and improvement of the transport potential of its neighbours will make it possible it to act as a regional transport hub, connecting their communications through its own transport network. Moreover, Tashkent views it as an opportunity to become a transit country for more distant players as well.

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev underlined the importance of providing access through Central Asia to major world markets, including China, India, Pakistan and other Asian countries, as well as from Azerbaijan and Turkey to European countries. "The development of transport corridors in these directions and the joint implementation of large projects to create a logistics infrastructure fully corresponds to our common interests," Mr. Mirziyoyev said.

According to Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, the construction of railways on the territory of the Turkic Council states is of great importance for Kyrgyzstan as well. One of such projects is a railway line connecting both Kyrgyzstan with Uzbekistan and China.

At the end of 2019, during the meeting of the heads of the railway departments of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia, the parties agreed to create a new multimodal route Central Asia-South Caucasus. At the same time, the planned China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway project is also considered significant. This fits the plans of the parties to form multimodal transportation routes along the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan-Georgia-European Union route.

Undoubtedly, transportation increasingly becomes the main drive of integration between the Turkic states. Apparently, the unblocking of transport routes in the South Caucasus will play an important role in this process. Understanding comes with tenacity, the Turkic countries achieve this thanks to their own efforts, inviting all partners to take advantage of their accomplishments. This is the true value of Turkic integration.

Ilgar Velizade

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