Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the 5th Consultative Meeting of Heads of Central Asian States
14 September 2023, 13:56
- Dear Emomali Sharipovich!
Esteemed heads of state!
First, I would like to express my gratitude to the President of Tajikistan, esteemed Emomali Sharipovich Rahmon, for the invitation to attend the 5th Consultative Meeting of the Heads of State of Central Asia as the guest of honor. I also express my gratitude to dear colleagues for supporting Azerbaijan’s participation in this event.
This is my second visit to brotherly Tajikistan this year. My state visit in April, decisions taken during the visit and the signed documents reaffirmed the strategic nature of our relations. We are looking forward to the state visit of the President of Tajikistan to Azerbaijan. I am confident that it will further contribute to the strengthening of our relations. Taking this opportunity, I would like to congratulate the friendly people of Tajikistan on the Independence Day.
Azerbaijan and the countries of Central Asia are bound by the centuries-long brotherhood ties of our peoples. Shared cultural roots are the solid foundation of interstate relations.
For over 30 years, as independent states, we have actively engaged both in bilateral and multilateral formats. We support each other’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and actively develop economic ties. With the growing economy, demographics and geopolitical potential, Central Asia and Azerbaijan are a single historical and cultural geographic region of strategic significance in world politics.
It is the first time I have participated in the Consultative Meeting, and I wish to express my confidence that this regional cooperation format will contribute to bringing our countries and peoples closer.
In the last two years, I have paid nine visits to the Central Asian states. During the same period, all the heads of the brotherly states made numerous visits to Azerbaijan. The active dynamics of reciprocal visits will continue until the end of the year.
The growth of mutual trade and investments is one of the key factors of bilateral cooperation. It is gratifying that the figures in both of those directions indicate consistent growth.
Last year, the trade turnover of Azerbaijan with the Central Asian countries increased more than three times. During seven months of this year – for another 50%.
Joint investment funds have been established, and over $1 billion of investments for the coming three years have been agreed upon. We are already implementing many projects in the sphere of industrial cooperation, machine-building, automobile industry, shipbuilding and agriculture, namely cotton production, sericulture, horticulture and livestock farming. Investment projects in the hotel business and tourism are at the initial implementation stage. We see the interest of Central Asian companies in the Alat Free Economic Zone established recently in Azerbaijan.
The sphere of transportation and logistics holds an essential place in our relations. For the Central Asian countries, Azerbaijan is a reliable transit country along the route to the markets of Türkiye and Europe. Not least significant is the transit in the opposite direction. Our brothers in Central Asia know that Azerbaijan’s entire transportation and logistics infrastructure is available to them.
We are modernizing the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway to meet the rising demand for cargo transportation through the East-West route. The cargo volume via that road will be increased from 1 to 5 million tons. In parallel to that, the capacity of the Baku Trade Port is also being expanded from current 15 to 25 million tons.
Azerbaijan has the largest trade fleet in the Caspian Sea, with over 50 vessels. Given the growing demand of shippers from Central Asia, we are actively working on expanding the capabilities of our shipyard. Upon the completion of investment projects, the number of manufactured tankers and dry cargo vessels will be increased from the current 6 to 10-15 vessels annually.
It is necessary to ensure the optimization of tariffs and simplification and streamlining of regulatory and customs procedures to attract a larger cargo volume. Digitalization of the East-West transportation corridor is critical in providing transparency of transit shipping and creating equal opportunities for parties involved in the transportation process.
The Digital Silk Way project on establishing a fiber-optic infrastructure is the new cooperation sphere we are actively working on between our countries.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the inception of the United Nations Special Program for the Economies of Central Asia – SPECA. I have sent official invitations to the esteemed heads of state and will be delighted to welcome you at the Summit in Baku this November.
I want to once again express my gratitude to all the heads of state for the invitation to today’s meeting and wish the brotherly peoples of Central Asia peace and prosperity.