Ilham Aliyev: "Middle Corridor" requires stability and security
Today, for the third time, ADA University is hosting an international conference with the participation of the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev. The conference is dedicated to regional geoeconomics - "Along the Middle Corridor: Geopolitics, Security and Economy". As the Azerbaijani leader emphasized, discussions in this format contribute to the external players' understanding of regional realities, Azerbaijan's plans and the republic's interaction with its neighbors, Vestnik Kavkaza reports.
Ilham Aliyev stressed that the implementation of such a large-scale project as the "Middle Corridor" really requires taking into account economic, security, and geopolitical issues. "Without ensuring security and unlocking the economic potential, it will be impossible to achieve the goals of the full use of the Middle Corridor, which will bring benefits to all countries in the region. One of the important elements in the implementation of any large-scale project is stability. Azerbaijan is a country where stability has been maintained for many, many years. This is one of the main factors of our economic development. The role that Azerbaijan is now playing in the international arena has become possible due to our domestic policy", he said.
"A strong economy, political and economic stability, the predictability of our government's policies - all these factors, along with building relationships and close ties with as many countries as possible, have led to today's realities. At the same time, it is also important what each country, which participates in the "Middle Corridor", has done for its implementation, that is, what kind of transport and logistic infrastructure has been built on its land", the President of Azerbaijan added.
The Azerbaijani leader drew attention to the geo-economic predetermination of the republic's foreign policy. "The geography of Azerbaijan is well known to everyone. We are a landlocked country, we do not have direct access to the world's oceans. Therefore, whether it is our energy projects or transport projects, we need to work very hard to achieve our goals. On the other hand, the advantage of our geographical location - it is the fact that we are at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, actually, in the middle of the two continents - allows us to play an important role in matters of interaction", he said.
"The physical possibility of building infrastructure was the most important issue. We have invested in this sector for many years, and now when we look at our railways and highways, we see that everything is ready in Azerbaijan. Five years ago, together with our partners, we launched the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project. Today, when we see an increasing volume of cargo that passes through our country, we have decided to increase investments in the Georgian part of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. The amount will exceed $100 million. We plan to complete this project within 1-1.5 years", Ilham Aliyev informed.
"Other projects, such as the North-South and East-West corridors, are synergistic with this. Azerbaijan participates in both corridors, we have already built most of the transport and logistic infrastructure for these corridors. Now we are simply upgrading them, building new railway lines to increase the speed of trains.At the same time, we are investing in transport infrastructure, in particular in air freight.Our trade sea port, a relatively new element of transport projects, will be expanded from today's 15 million tons per year to 25 million tons per year because there is a need for this due to the new geopolitical situation in the world, it is necessary to transport more cargo through Azerbaijan", the President of Azerbaijan said.
"We are also completing our airport construction projects. After the opening of Lachin airport, the third air harbor in the liberated territories, the number of international airports in Azerbaijan will reach nine. They will be used not only for passenger transportation, but also for cargo transportation. We expect a rapid increase in the volume of cargo traffic through Azerbaijan, and we are ready for this.If we add to this our shipping capacity and the possibility of a new shipyard in Baku, it becomes clear that we will certainly be able to achieve what we have planned. We will need new tankers, ferries and cargo ships for the transportation of additional volumes of cargo across the Caspian", Ilham Aliyev said.
Concluding his opening speech, the Azerbaijani leader noted that the conference participants will visit Aghdam today. "I also want to thank you for this. You will see the results of 30 years of Armenian occupation with your own eyes", he said.
Answering the question of the former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan, former Assistant Secretary of State for the South Caucasus Matthew Bryza about participation in trans-regional projects of Turkmenistan and Türkiye, Ilham Aliyev stressed that the already operating transport routes allow all countries of the Caspian region to be more integrated. "Our cooperation with Turkmenistan has a long history, and today we are carrying out an important transit of goods from Turkmenistan through our commercial seaport of Alat. We have allocated a special space exclusively for goods from Turkmenistan. We have also started swap operations with Turkmen gas because our industry is growing and requires large volumes of energy resources. Industry is developing, the population is increasing, we are actively restoring Karabakh and East Zangezur, so the need for natural gas will certainly increase," the Azerbaijani leader explained.
"We will continue cooperation with foreign companies planning to increase gas production at existing fields in Azerbaijan, as well as at new fields that will be put into operation next year, in particular, we are talking about the large Absheron gas condensate field. In the first phase, 1.5 billion cubic meters of gas will be produced, there is a potential to increase production several times. At the same time, it is necessary to expand the existing pipeline system. Less than two years ago, we completed the construction of the last part of the Southern Gas Corridor - the TAP pipeline. Now we see the need to double its capacity from 10 to 20 billion cubic meters per year. This will require a consolidated decision and investments of all project participants. Azerbaijan has only 20% of the shares in TAP, and we hope that our partners will support us," he said.
"We also need to expand TANAP from 16 to 32 billion cubic meters per year, since its capacity is almost fully utilized. All of this requires additional investments, and therefore we need to organize transit together with our Turkish colleagues. Without this, it is impossible to meet the needs of European consumers, as well as the growing demand for gas in Türkiye itself. We have the opportunity to activate the Trans-Balkan gas pipeline without wasting time, especially since Greece and Bulgaria agreed to connect the pipelines last month.The capacity of this gas pipeline is 3 billion cubic meters per year, and we are ready to provide the necessary volumes within a month - however, for this we need to organize transit through Türkiye. Unfortunately, we have not reached a decision yet, negotiations are ongoing and last longer than we expected. I hope we will reach an agreement, because if it doesn't happen, all our plans to provide additional gas to Türkiye and Europe will be put under threat", Ilham Aliyev warned.
"In July this year, we signed a memorandum of understanding with the European Commission to double the gas supply. We have the appropriate potential. Firstly, as I said, these are new gas fields that we plan to launch in the coming years, in addition to "Absheron" I can name "Umid-Babek", "Asiman", "Shafag" and many others. Secondly, serious reforms in our energy company SOCAR - new corporate management, transparency and efficiency - will help ensure the supply of additional gas volumes. Our renewable energy projects that we have started with foreign investors should be also mentioned. Two projects are already under development and 470 MW of wind and solar power will be available probably by the end of next year, as well as 230 MW of solar power in Jabrayil. They will save additional volumes of gas for us. In other words, we will have the opportunity to fully comply with the memorandum of understanding with the European Commission. But we need to conclude agreements with our Turkish friends before it. I hope that this will happen as soon as possible", the President of Azerbaijan stressed.
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