A webinar on “Eurasian Connectivity and Rising Role of the Middle Corridor Amidst COVID-19”

International webinar on “Eurasian Connectivity and Rising Role of the Middle Corridor AmidstCOVID-19” was organized by the Center of Analysis of International Relations (AIR Center). Ambassador Farid Shafiyev, Chairman of AIR Center who moderated the webinar emphasized that Azerbaijan like other countries has been affected by the consequences of the COVID-19, and the crisis had a negative impact on the global supply chain. He added that COVID-19 is a threat to existing projects, however, during this period from a transportation stand point, one could observe an increase in cargo transportation via the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Ambassador Farid Shafiyev noted that different transport projects are being implemented, and Azerbaijan has also focused on a number of projects, including the Middle Corridor project. According to him, this project has both political significance and economic benefits. The moderator also underlined that he was optimistic about the consequences of the crisis caused by the COVID-19.

Speaking about the sanitary-epidemiological measures taken in Alat port during the COVID-19, Deputy Director General of the Baku International Sea Trade Port CJSC Akbar Karimov noted that epidemiological situation in Alat port is under control and all truck drivers entering the Port area are being constantly monitored. According to him, only non-infected drivers can enter the sterile zone. The Deputy Director added that in recent years the projects passing through the Caspian Sea have increased the role of the Middle Corridor: “The Trans-Caspian and Lapis Lazuli corridors are projects which connect the landlocked countries and provide access to the European market. The Middle Corridor is considered to be the shortest and safest route between Europe and Asia.”  According to  him, despite the COVID-19, the cargo transportation increased around 27% compared to last year. Half a million tons of cargo was transported between the port of Alat and the port of Aktau in six months, and it is planned to reach one million tons by the end of the year. Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are cooperating in the implementation of digitalization and green economy projects implemented by the EU.

Leila Batyrbekova Deputy Secretary General at International Association "Trans-Caspian International Association of Kazakhstan noted that there are active connections between the ports of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, and such activity was also observed during theCOVID-19. She mentioned that around a half million tons of cargo was transported between the ports Alat and Aktau within 6 months, and it is planned to increase this indicator up to 1 million tons by the end of the year. She added that Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are also cooperating in “Digitalization and Sustainability”  projects implemented by the EU.

Vice-rector of Kadir Has University in Turkey, Dr.Mitat Chelikpala emphasized that Turkey gives particular importance to Azerbaijan and the South Caucasus region as well as sees transport projects in this region as a priority. According to him, such projects present good opportunities not only for landlocked countries, but also for Turkey: “The Middle Corridor project is very promising as a global infrastructure project.

Deputy Director of the Institute for Strategic and Regional Studies under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Sanjar Valiyev noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the international relations to a new level. According to him, on the one hand, such a situation complicates the cooperation process, but on the other hand, it can also open new opportunities for the configuration of cooperation. Deputy Director added that Uzbekistan is always ready to cooperate with the Caspian Basin and the regional countries in the above-mentioned projects.

First Secretary for Economic Affairs of the Embassy of Turkmenistan to the Republic of Azerbaijan Ovazgeldi Jumanazarov noted that his country participated in a number of international initiatives as well as carried out bilateral and multilateral cooperation. According to him, Turkmenistan is at the core of global development processes in Central Asia. He specifically emphasized the role of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway in the development of the Middle Corridor.

Professor at Afghanistan's Badakhshan University Zabehullah Bashardost touched upon the political and economic opportunities of the Lapis Lazuli Project, which connects Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. According to him, this strategic project is an access to the South Caucasus, the Balkans and Europe for Afghanistan, which will give a serious impetus to macroeconomic indicators of the country.

Head of the Port Operations Department of the Baku International Sea Trade Port CJSC Yujin Sih noted that the crisis could be used as an opportunity to facilitate cargo transportation. He also added that the digitalization in cargo transportation is very important.