10 января 2019 г.

The international expert club "EurAsiaAz", which positions itself as an information and analytical platform for experts from Eurasian and Euro-Atlantic countries, launched a virtual expert discussion on the topic "Lazurite Corridor: Challenges and Opportunities for the South Caucasus and Central Asia." Political experts, political scientists, economists from the South Caucasus and Central Asia take part in the discussion.

The first guest of our project is Rizvan Huseynov, Director of the Center for History of the Caucasus, Senior Researcher at the Institute of Law and Human Rights of National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan.

- What is the meaning and what opportunities does the Lazurite Corridor offer to the countries participating in the project?

- Azerbaijan is consistently transforming from an oil and gas producing state into one of the alternative sources of gas supplies to Europe, the main author of the creation of the Southern Gas Corridor, including the construction of the Trans-Anatolian (TANAP) and Trans-Adriatic (TAP) pipelines. Investments in the amount of $ 45 billion will be invested in these projects.

No less important is given to transit projects like West-East, which has already linked China with Europe and South-North through Azerbaijan and neighboring countries, which through Azerbaijan can link the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Finland. Great interest in Azerbaijan is also shown in the “Lazurite Corridor” project, which runs through Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and further to Europe. In the framework of the recent visit of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to Ashgabat and his meetings with his Turkmen counterpart, a number of documents on the development of the transport “Lazurite Corridor” were signed.

This project will give an additional impetus to the development of trade and transit opportunities, both in the countries participating in the project and in Romania and other countries of Eastern Europe.

- What are the possible risks and challenges?

- An important factor in the implementation of the Lazurite Corridor is the expansion of Sino-Pakistani economic relations, the main vector of which is Chinese investment in order to build a railway network and other transit routes through Pakistan with access to the Persian Gulf. This corridor will allow through the Persian Gulf, Iran and Azerbaijan to provide more efficient delivery of goods from China to Europe. Although there are still many questions regarding Iran, which took a wait-and-see attitude, for it signed projects on building a transit branch India, Afghanistan-Iran, which India is lobbying, jealous of China’s desire to build a route through Pakistan. Against this background, a new Pak-Indian conflict is already brewing, threatening to escalate into a military confrontation.

- How do you assess the possibility of other countries joining the Lazurite Corridor?

- I note that the economic power of the Atlanticists (countries of America and Western Europe) is based on the control of ocean and sea supplies. Therefore, Western countries are wary of new land transit projects in Eurasia, which may inflict damage on the Western marine transport and economic hegemony.

After all, there is a considerable chance that the new land railway routes can restore the former power of the medieval “Great Silk Road” - the network of transit corridors that once connected the wide expanses of Asia and Europe. Previously, it was believed that rail transportation cannot compete with maritime transport, which is cheaper and allows to transport much more cargo at a time.

However, now, in the light of the protracted global financial and economic crisis, the need for the supply of goods in huge quantities has been significantly reduced. Moreover, transcontinental railway corridors make it possible to deliver cargo several times faster than sea vessels, moreover, to do it in a short way, bypassing the long journey through the seas and oceans. Mobility, efficiency and lesser dependence on intermediary countries makes railway deliveries increasingly attractive. However, such an alignment of forces concerns the Atlantic bloc, most of whose countries see a threat in restoring the Silk Road for their economic and military-political interests. Therefore, the United States and Western Europe will continue to impede the implementation of large land corridors that may pose a threat to maritime transport.