Ivan Pyatibratov: "Azerbaijan is becoming more and more a key transport hub in the region"

Ivan Pyatibratov: "Azerbaijan is becoming more and more a key transport hub in the region"

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 third guest of the project - Analyst of the Center for Political Information Ivan Pyatibratov.

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

- The “Lazurite Corridor” has the greatest value for two countries - Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. For Afghanistan in particular. The state has no access to the sea, and the “Lazurite Corridor” becomes its salvation from this trap. This is truly a landmark event for Kabul.

It is also worth noting that to date, Afghanistan’s exports are small, which negatively affects the economic condition of a poor country.
Because of this, the “Lazurite Corridor” becomes a chance for Afghanistan to improve its position. As for Turkmenistan, its accession to the Lazurite Corridor is a good help for solving the issue of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, which Turkmenistan has been wanting to build for a long time, but not to build it.

Of course, the gas will not be allowed through the Lazurite Corridor, but participation in this project is a good reputational and political step for Turkmenistan, as it strengthens its relations with Azerbaijan.

And I remind you that the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline should potentially involve Turkmenistan in the TANAP project, in which Azerbaijan plays a key role. Even if you do not take into account the political motives of Turkmenistan, this transport corridor will in any case be in demand due to the ambitions of Afghanistan. In addition, China can connect to it. Therefore, in all respects Turkmenistan benefits from participation in this project.

As for Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, for these countries the “Lazurite Corridor” is essentially a reinforcement of the already existing Baku-Tbilisi-Kars corridor. The main beneficiary in strengthening the corridor is, of course, Azerbaijan, which in recent years has become increasingly key transport hub in the region.

- What are the possible risks and challenges in this project?

- The most risky participant in the Lazurite Corridor is the state most interested in its success - Afghanistan. As I have already noted, this is a poor country, which means that for the successful operation of the project, other participating countries will have to raise their own funds to maintain facilities subordinated to Afghanistan.

Secondly, in Afghanistan there is an acute problem of terrorism. It is natural that objects of international importance will attract the attention of terrorist groups.

Third, the drug problem in Afghanistan is no less acute, namely, the production and export of heroin. In this regard, the Lazurite Corridor can be used by drug traffickers to transport their goods. So, it will be necessary to strengthen the protection of elements of the corridor, which again will force other participants to fork out.

The rest of the participating countries do not demonstrate any potential risks. If we talk about more technical things, then many more issues are not settled - this is the issue of infrastructure maintenance, the issue of regulating customs zones, the issue of optimizing the activities of land ports and highways. But they are working on this, so the only risk here is delaying the negotiations.

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

- With regard to potential participants, Iran comes first to mind, with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan interested in energy cooperation. But due to the fact that due to the US withdrawal from the “nuclear deal”, Iran is in a deep economic and political crisis, it is not necessary to expect its accession in the coming years.

Another potential participant, I would call China, which for some time worked on transport integration with Afghanistan. In addition, there are signs of military cooperation between China and Afghanistan. The launch of the Lazurite Corridor can give these processes a new impetus, which means attracting China to participate in its work.

In general, it is too early to involve anyone in the project, since the “Lazurite Corridor” will be of interest to external players only when all issues of the corridor’s functioning have been resolved, and when it has shown its profitability.
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