«One Belt, One Road» - Azerbaijan in the cooperation of the Caspian and Black Sea countries
By Azer Hudiyev
Increasingly, we can observe how the economic and political foundations of some states are weakening and sometimes collapsing.Today, in our world that is rapidly changing and full of turbulence, even many developed countries are increasingly confronted with non-standard and non-systemic challenges and threats of modern times.
In the light of all these complex and non-systemic geopolitical processes, there is a growing need for rallying all countries and making a really weighty contribution that would serve to form a new geopolitical value for the benefit of human development.
In this context, Azerbaijan over the past 15 years of its state development stage has made an impressive contribution to the development and preservation of stability not only in the South Caucasus, but also in the countries of the European region.
Our country is the engine of ambitious and large-scale infrastructure projects of international importance in the region. The government of Azerbaijan through these projects, so to say, is changing the entire infrastructure map of the whole region today. The participation of Azerbaijan in the implementation of the One Belt, One Road project has a multi-faceted character.
As a main participant of this ambitious project, Azerbaijan performs a substantive and communicative function. In this capacity, our country is a geopolitical hub in the South Caucasus - it is not only geographically located at the crossroads of the 'West-East' and 'North-South' routes, but also, as a member of regional and international geopolitical, geo-economic, geo-cultural structures, performs specific communicative function within several projects that are designed to build bridges between the West and the East.
Undoubtedly, among such projects, One Belt, One Road takes a special place. The basis of this project's philosophy lies the thesis that in the current world there is no absolutely independent country - “all are interconnected with everyone”. Therefore, humanity is a complex and open system. It has been scientifically proven that the existence of any element of such systems largely depends on the existence of other components.
These “others” geographically can be located both in the neighborhood and tens of thousands of kilometers away. Specifically saying, our world has become very "sensitive" in all spheres of life. This thesis takes place both at the level of a specific society and humanity in general.
In the context of these arguments, we find very interesting the thoughts of our President Ilham Aliyev about the place and role of Azerbaijan in the framework of the One Belt, One Road project in his recent interview with the Xinhua news agency.
Ilham Aliyev stressed: “I am convinced that geopolitics lie at the heart of transport projects connecting various countries. These projects affect the geopolitical situation, contribute to stability and predictability, and create interdependence. Without neighbors, we cannot become a transit country. That is, it is a chain of states, and we are located on the path that stretches from the East to the West and from the North to the South. Thereby we connect continents and countries and build an even more predictable future.”
Thus, for official Baku, the One Belt, one Road initiative is attractive in three aspects: 1) it can develop economic cooperation between countries and regions; 2) is can significantly contribute to strengthening the security system in a wide geopolitical space; 3) it can also serve to strengthen and develop intercultural and inter-civilizational relations, and encourage contacts between nations.
In our opinion, in view of these theses, it is possible to analyze the perspective of Azerbaijan’s cooperation under this project with the countries of the Caspian and Black Sea basins. This topic is relevant on the eve of the second International Cooperation Forum, which will be devoted to the One Belt, One Road project.
The validity of our approach is also due to the fact that Azerbaijan already has rich experience in cooperation with the Black Sea-Caspian countries. Several years ago, in one of our articles, we addressed this issue in more details.
There we tried to analyze the Azerbaijani role in creating a new European security architecture in the context of cooperation with the countries of the Black Sea-Caspian basin. Let us point out the essential, from our view point, moments that are consonant with the topic of this article.
It is known that Western and Russian politicians and analysts do not consider the Black Sea and Caspian basins separately. They view it as a single system that covers both basins (see, e.g.: 3 and 4) in all their security models (energy too), this is. For us, the functional definition of the 'Black Sea-Caspian region' notion has the following meaning: the region that unites East and West.
Subsequently, security requires the formation of a network of “measuring points” of the situation in all countries of the region with one organizational and conceptual “knot”. As world practice shows, the direct path to this is the establishment of confidence-building measures between states as well as mending their full cooperation.
Azerbaijan’s cooperation with the Black Sea-Caspian countries is built precisely within these principles. After the One Belt, One Road was initiated, it became possible to apply these principles in a wider geopolitical and geo-economic space. Particularly, Azerbaijan, as a geopolitical and geo-economic hub of the South Caucasus, was able to play the role of a bridge between the participants of the One Belt, One Road project, and this is specifically expressed in establishing economic, energy and transit relationships between the Black Sea and Caspian countries.
This issue has become even more relevant against after the European countries joined the One Belt, One Road project, as documents on cooperation under this project have already been signed between China and some EU countries. On 27 August 2018, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi signed a memorandum of cooperation under the One Belt, One Road initiative. And on 5 December of the same year, a similar document was signed between Portugal and China. The document was endorsed in the presence of the Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Portuguese President Dinesh Joseph D'Souza.
On 23 March 2019, the Deputy Prime Minister of Italy and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China (PRC) signed a memorandum of cooperation within the framework of the One Belt, One Road project. And finally, a similar document has already been signed between Switzerland and the PRC. The statement by the Swiss Ministry of Finance emphasizes that the promotion of trade cooperation, investment and projects' financing in the third countries along the One Belt, One Road route in accordance with the basic principles of cooperation and within the framework of international standards and legislation in the respective countries, is the main purpose of signing this document. Thus, already four EU and Schengen zone countries are starting to partake in the One Belt, One Road project.
These new facts even more actualize the creation of a single transitory, geo-economic, energy system along the geopolitical Asia-Caucasus-Europe belt. And here Azerbaijan, as a South Caucasus geopolitical hub, plays a special role in the process of the Black Sea-Caspian countries' integration. Why precisely Azerbaijan? Because, firstly, Azerbaijan is not only one of the main project participants: there are other 63 countries-major participants). Secondly, Azerbaijan is the initiator of several energy megaprojects of international importance, such as 'Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan', 'Baku-Tbilisi-Kars', TAP, TANAP etc., within the framework of which an international cooperation group has been created with several EU members, including Italy.
We are confident that with a reasonable and objective approach to this problem, all participants of the One Belt, One Road project will gain. In that case, such principles as mutual perception, interaction, cooperation and harmonious co-development will bring a special advantage to the Black Sea-Caspian basin.
And Azerbaijan, a stable country with minimized investment risks in a rapidly changing region, will play an even more active role along the West-East and North-South routes, where the main principle of work is mutually beneficial, easy and comprehensive cooperation of all countries.
Hudiyev Azer Hudayar oglu - Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Ukraine