Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the opening of the conference under the motto “Along the Middle Corridor: Geopolitics, Security and Economy”25 November 2022, 10:01
-Thank you very much. First, I would like to express gratitude to our guests and international experts for being with us and addressing these important issues. Of course, special gratitude to ADA university for hosting this important event. As Mr. Pashayev already said, we gather here for the third time in recent history. The discussions we had previously and this time will contribute to a better understanding of regional realities, plans for Azerbaijan, and our interaction with the neighborhood. Today’s topic covers a particular issue of the Middle Corridor, but, of course, when I see how it is called “Geopolitics, Security and Economy,” of course, the coverage will be much broader, and this is natural. Because to implement such a large-scale project as the Middle Corridor, the issues of security and economic capability, of course, must be addressed since, without security and economic potential, it will be impossible to achieve the goal of full commissioning of the Middle Corridor which will be beneficial to all the countries in the region. One of the important elements for the implementation of any large-scale project is stability. Azerbaijan is a country that has enjoyed stability for many, many years, and this was one of the main factors in our economic development. The role which Azerbaijan plays now in the international arena is also generated by our internal politics. A strong economy, political and economic stability and predictability of the policy of our government - all these factors, along with building bridges and establishing closer relations with as many countries as possible, led to today’s reality. Therefore, political stability, security, and the economy are very important. Along with that, of course, what has every country part of the Middle Corridor done internally? In other words, what was the level of accomplishment of their homework to build physical transportation and logistics infrastructure? Azerbaijan’s geography is very well known. We are a landlocked country. We do not have direct access to oceans.
Therefore, whether it’s our energy or transportation projects, we need to work hard to achieve our target. At the same time, the advantage of our geographical location is that we are situated between Europe and Asia, in the middle, between the two continents, which allows us to play an important role in connectivity issues. But, of course, the physical availability of infrastructure was most important, and we have invested in that sector for many, many years. And now, when we look at our railroad connections and highway infrastructure, we see that everything in Azerbaijan is ready. Five years ago, we inaugurated the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad project with our partners. When we saw the growing cargo volume crossing our country, we started to invest in expanding the Georgian segment of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars. This project will cost us more than a hundred million U.S. dollars, and we plan to accomplish it within a year and maybe in a year and a half.
At the same time, other transportation projects like the North-South corridor will add synergy to the East-West corridor. So, Azerbaijan is actually the participant in both corridors and most of the transportation and logistics infrastructure with respect to these corridors in Azerbaijan is ready. What are we doing now? We are simply modernizing it. We are building new railway lines to increase the speed of the passenger and cargo trains. At the same time, we are investing in transportation infrastructure, particularly the air cargo transportation infrastructure. Our trade seaport, a relatively new element of transportation connectivity projects, will be expanded. From today’s 15 million tons up to 25 million tons because of the new geopolitical situation in the world and the necessity to transport more cargo through Azerbaijan. And also, we are in the process of completing our airport projects. After Lachin airport is ready, which will be the third airport in the liberated territories, the number of international airports in Azerbaijan will be equal to nine. Of course, this is not only for passenger transportation but also cargo transportation.
So, we expect rapid growth of cargo transportation through Azerbaijan, and we are ready for that. Suppose we add our potential with respect to the shipping infrastructure and the availability of a brand-new shipyard in Baku. In that case, we will see that we will definitely achieve what we planned. And to transport additional cargo from the eastern shores of the Caspian through Azerbaijan, of course, we will need to have new tankers, ferry boats, and cargo boats. So, I will conclude this introduction to leave more time for our discussions. Once again, welcome. I know that you will be visiting one of the liberated cities – Aghdam - and I am grateful for that. You will see the results of 30 years of the Armenian occupation with your own eyes. Thank you.
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