This article examines the degree of awareness at the grassroots level in Azerbaijan and Pakistan regarding the growing bilateral strategic cooperation. During the last several years, relations between Baku and Islamabad have expanded rapidly to the level of a strategic partnership encompassing various fields such as military, humanitarian issues, diplomatic, and cultural issues. Building strategic partnerships with countries in the region and beyond has always been a guiding principle of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy strategy. The common religious background of both countries also plays a significant role in strengthening bilateral ties. Pakistan’s explicit support of Azerbaijan in the international diplomatic arena, in particular in regard to the resolution process of the most complex and dangerous conflict in the South Caucasus – the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is among those significant factors. The article traces the key moments in Azerbaijani – Pakistan relations, and outlines the achievements, prospects, and potential for strengthening economic and security ties. Oxumağa davam et Response to Regional Challenges: Why Strategic Partnership of Azerbaijan and Pakistan is Important?→
On October 30, 2017, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, along with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Georgia’s Prime-minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev, and Uzbekistan’s Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov attended the opening ceremony of the long-delayed Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway. “The opening of the railway is of historic and strategic significance,” Aliyev said at the ceremony in the Caspian port city of Alat, south of Baku, to mark the departure of the first trains. In fact, the opening of the new railway provides an alternative route to existing rail services carrying goods from Asia to Europe.
BACKGROUND: The BTK railway, totaling 826 kilometers in length, is intended to complete a transport corridor linking Azerbaijan to Turkey (and thereby linking Central Asia and China to Europe) by rail. The railway is constructed on the basis of a Georgian-Azerbaijani-Turkish intergovernmental agreement. At the initial stage, it will have a capacity of one million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo per year, projected to reach 17 million tons of cargo per year by 2023. Starting in Baku, the trains will stop in Tbilisi, pass through gauge-changing facilities in Akhalkalaki, and terminate in north-east Turkey. Oxumağa davam et Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway to Become Central Asia’s Gateway to Europe→
Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey signed a new agreement dedicated to launching the Lapis Lazuli transit corridor during a pentalateral meeting at the seventh Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA), held on November 15, in Ashgabat (Azernews, November 15). The finalized document was the product of three years of negotiations among the five governments. The trans-regional corridor will encompass mainly railways and highways, which will connect Herat province (Afghanistan) and Turkmenbashi port (Turkmenistan) via Ashgabat. From Turkmenbashi, goods will be able to travel further by ferry to Baku, where they would be placed on train cars and continue westward to Europe across the South Caucasus via the newly launched Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railroad (see EDM, October 16, November 17). Oxumağa davam et Lapis Lazuli: A New Transit Corridor to Link Asia and Europe via the South Caucasus→
On September 27, the head of Azerbaijani Railways Company, Javid Gurbanov, along with his Georgian and Turkish counterparts, Mamuka Bakhtadze and Ahmad Arslan, respectively, attended the first test run by a passenger train along a section of the Baku–Tbilisi–Kars (BTK) railway, from the Georgian capital to Akhalkalaki (in the country’s southwest). After the test train reached the final destination, Gurbanov declared that the BTK railroad is likely ready to begin regular operation (AzVision, September 27). Hence, the minister of foreign affairs of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov, during a joint press conference with Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze, in Tbilisi, stated that the official opening ceremony of the BTK will be held on October 30 of this year (Apsny.ge, October 10).
The 826-kilometer-long Baku–Tbilisi–Kars railway connects Azerbaijan to Turkey via Georgia (and by extension forms an important link in the trans-continental transport corridor connecting Central Asia and China to Europe). The BTK railroad is being constructed on the basis of a 2007 Georgian-Azerbaijani-Turkish intergovernmental agreement. In its initial stage, the railway will carry 1 million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo per year. However, by 2023, its peak capacity will grow to 17 million tons of cargo annually (The Asian, October 18, 2016). Beginning in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, trains traveling along the BTK will stop in Tbilisi, pass through gauge-changing facilities in Akhalkalaki, and terminate in northeastern Turkey. Oxumağa davam et Will the Baku–Tbilisi–Kars Railway Become Uzbekistan’s New Connection to Europe?→
Baku hosted the first joint gathering of the heads of the railway administrations of Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine and Poland, on June 19. The meeting was dedicated to the newly-launched “South-West Transport Corridor,” which links into the broader Trans-Caspian International Route project launched in 2016. The event concluded with the signing of a new joint protocol that envisages expanding cooperation opportunities along the so-called “South-West” route (Iran–Azerbaijan–Georgia–by ferry across the Black Sea–Ukraine–Poland) in order to optimize cargo transportation and increase transit capacity. Reportedly, the next joint meeting of the working group will be held in Odesa in September 2017 (Trend, June 19).
In May 2017, China hosted an international summit in Beijing gathering 28 heads of state from four continents and representatives of various international organizations. The summit was devoted to the Belt and Road Initiative, referring to overland and maritime routes across the Eurasian landmass. One of the most significant moments of the summit was the meeting between China’s and Pakistan’s leaders and the signing of a new agreement (MoU), adding to the US$ 46 billion already pledged for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a network of rail, road and energy infrastructure. During the event, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with the leaders of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, requesting their investment in CPEC.
BACKGROUND: CPEC is the flagship project under the Belt and Road Initiative and has been seen as a “game changer” in the regional geopolitical discourse since it was formally unveiled in April 2015. It has become the foremost bilateral initiative between China and Pakistan and has a budget of over US$ 46 billion. As part of this initiative, an opening ceremony was held on May 6, 2016 in the city of Sukkur in Pakistan’s Sindh Province, marking the beginning of construction of a section of highway between Sukkur and the city of Multan, which will be part of a network of highways connecting the cities of Peshawar and Karachi. Oxumağa davam et China – Pakistan Economic Corridor: An Opportunity for Central Asia?→
Abstract. This paper examines the European Union’s geopolitical interests in the South Caucasus, with a specific focus on Azerbaijan. The EU has maintained a relationship with the region for over two decades, but often the EU’s approach towards the South Caucasus have been deeply affected by local and regional developments. Nevertheless, EU – Azerbaijan bilateral relations may offer an alternative. Azerbaijan plays a key role in European energy security, while the EU is seeking to create a “European space” in the South Caucasus. These two interrelated developments are mutually reinforcing. This paper examines how this relationship shapes and/or is influenced by the EU’s geopolitical strategic vision in the region.