Caspian Sea Convention supported by transport and logistics projects
Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev held bilateral negotiations with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev, Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani after the Caspian Summit. During the summit, they discussed practical issues of cooperation. The heads of the Caspian states are confident that the signed Convention will provide additional opportunities to enhance cooperation in trade and economy, as well as attract foreign investment.
From Astana's point of view, the signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea will help to enhance stability in the region. "The process of active militarization of the region was a collateral risk of the absence of the Caspian Sea's legal status, when practically all the Caspian states began strengthening their naval forces there. Sooner or later, the arms race in the Caspian region could reach the upper limit of security, beyond which the risk of armed conflict increased. But any military conflict in the Caspian Sea will strike a blow to Kazakhstan's economic interests, which is highly dependent on development of Caspian deposits, pipeline infrastructure and transport projects existing here," director of the Group of Risk Assessment Dosym Satpayev told Vestnik Kavkaza.
The leaders of the Caspian countries were focused precisely on the transport and logistics infrastructure development in the Caspian region. On the eve of the summit, the multimodal transport hub of Kazakhstan's Kuryk port was launched, which opens up new transport and logistics opportunities for all countries of the region, including for Azerbaijan. At a meeting with Ilham Aliyev, Nursultan Nazarbayev spoke about the benefits of using it: "The launch of a multimodal hub is of great importance not only for Kazakhstan, but for the entire Eurasian continent." Nazarbayev noted that the connection to the Eurasian transport system is a strategic task for Kazakhstan. "The Kuryk port road infrastructure brought into operation provides new opportunities for the development of road transit. The trans-Caspian route via the Kuryk port facilitates cargo delivery from China, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and the Ural-Siberian Region of Russia to Turkey and Europe, and vice versa, which will allow Kazakhstan to boost country’s transit revenue up to $5 billion per year by 2020," Nursultan Nazarbayev said.
The President of Kazakhstan stressed that the multiplier effect of transport infrastructure will enhance economic competitiveness and will increase trade flows on the revived Silk Road, expanding regional cooperation and economic advancement.. Nazarbayev also spoke about the work carried out to turn Kazakhstan into a major transit hub. In particular, according to him, more than 2.5 thousand km of railways were built and 12 thousand km of highways were reconstructed. "Historically, it has never been done before, and we did a great job," Nazarbayev noted. "We agreed with the Russian president to continue this road to Kazan, St. Petersburg and Europe," the Kazakh leader said.
Ilham Aliyev, in turn, said that the Alat port was opened in Azerbaijan, which will ensure the full integration of traffic flows, and noted the political and economic benefits of using the transit opportunities of the two countries. "The Caspian has become an external transport artery. We will strive to ensure that all the provisions of the Convention are implemented, and the Caspian states to play the role of stabilizer in the region," the Azerbaijani president said.
Russia doesn't stand aside from these plans either. According to President Vladimir Putin, the Russian Federation is actively working on the development of transport cooperation, intending to construct a new deep-water port near Kaspiysk that will receive large-capacity ships with actual loads of 15,000–25,000 tons. In addition, Russia’s port capabilities will be integrated into global and Eurasian transport and logistic networks, including supporting the project of the International North–South Transport Corridor. Its launch would allow for a 2.5-fold increase in the speed of transporting cargo, which will amount to 25 million tonnes delivered annually.
President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov offered to partners in the Caspian Five to create a regional transport and logistics center. "Its executive apparatus could be located on a rotational basis in coastal cities of each Caspian country," Berdimuhamedov said in Aktau.
Head of the Center for Central Asia and Caucasus Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Stanislav Pritchin, told Vestnik Kavkaza that Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan do not have a lot of joint projects - just on gas and roads. "Ashgabat and Astana regularly discuss partnership in the gas sector and the development of cross-border mineral deposits. Kazakhstan is involved in a major project for the delivery of Central Asian gas to China. CNPC has been purchasing Turkmen fuel from 2009 through the territory of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. As for the transport sector, a transnational Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway was launched in 2014," the expert said. Goods can be transported without any restrictions to the countries of the Persian Gulf, to the Indian Ocean and to Europe thanks to this route. Kazakhstan joined the Central Asia-Middle East (Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran-Oman) transport corridor project in 2016. The new corridor will allow the Central Asian countries to connect to the ports of the Persian and Oman gulfs through optimal routes in the future.
At the talks with Hassan Rouhani, Nazarbayev noted that the visits in 2016 gave a good impetus to bilateral relations. "Our historic meeting based on trust and mutual understanding will settle all issues related to the Caspian Sea and strengthen cooperation between the Caspian countries," Nazarbayev said. Rouhani, in turn, noted that the summit will achieve the most positive results. "Our countries are very close not only geographically, but also on a number of other aspects. At the same time, we have common interests," the Iranian leader said. He stressed that Kazakhstan always supports Iran on international platforms and invariably complies with nuclear agreements. "Your country is carrying out a very important peacekeeping mission in the global arena, including as part of Astana Process. Our relations are of a strategic nature and are developing in all directions," the Iranian president concluded.