Azerbaijan prepares to become regional transport hub and profit from non-oil sector
"Last year was a year of strengthening of Russian-Azerbaijani relations' supporting structures, and it affected not only bilateral cooperation formats, but also larger-scale projects, in which Russia and Azerbaijan were involved," leading analyst of the Political and Economic Communications Agency, Mikhail Neizhmakov, said during "Russia -Azerbaijan: Agenda in 2019" video conference.
He expressed opinion that this trend will continue in the coming year. "Ilham Aliyev and Vladimir Putin have repeatedly met on the sidelines of major international events over the past year and a half. There were also meeting between our presidents in Sochi, there was Putin’s visit to Baku, there was a meeting of intergovernmental commission in December," expert recalled.
According to him, the East Asian vector of foreign policy is being discussed a lot in the Russian press, but Russia’s serious efforts to develop the Caspian vector, where foreign policy objectives are associated with domestic politics, with personnel policy of Russian leadership in the regional direction, are sometimes ignored: “Past two years were a period of active personnel rotations. Vladimir Vasiliev was appointed acting head of Dagestan in 2017, Sergey Morozov was appointed acting head of Astrakhan region last year. Moreover, the latter has a huge experience as assistant of Defense Minister. Such changes are not always associated with foreign policy. However, if large projects are implemented or are planned to be implemented in some regions, then these regions are strengthened with personnel from outside, or with personnel who have experience at the federal level."
Mikhail Neizhmakov also noted that development strategy of the Caspian basin seaports was adopted recently: "The Caspian line of Russian foreign policy and Russian foreign economic activity is developing, and it cannot be developed without cooperation with Baku, without joint projects. This is one of the supporting structures that will create additional support, will have an effect in the coming years."
Expert recalled that contacts between Russia and Azerbaijan exist not only at the highest level, but also at the interregional level: "Putin’s visit to Baku last year coincided with interregional Russian-Azerbaijani forum, which was attended not only by representatives of North Caucasus and Southern federal districts of Russia, but also by representatives of more remote territories. There are more and more of mutual contacts between Moscow and Baku, and foreign policy goals are completely in line with foreign economic goals, so there are many reasons that prove that this cooperation will continue to develop this year."
Lina Vaitkeviciene, deputy director of the Trend news agency, recalled that Russia, as well as European countries and other countries consider Azerbaijan their strategic partner in the Caspian region: “Azerbaijan’s leadership is a reliable partner. Azerbaijan is a stable and safe country, despite existing conflict [around Nagorno-Karabakh]. Azerbaijan's economy is developing rapidly: the Southern Gas Corridor was open in 2018, Azerbaijani gas soon reach Southern Europe. This great historical event will change energy map of the region. Azerbaijan actively participates in various projects, including the North-South and West-East transport corridors. It's the only country that participates in both projects, which gives it opportunity to become regional transport hub and profit from non-oil sector."
She also pointed out that Azerbaijan rose to 25th place in the World Bank's "Doing Business" rating: “This has never happened before, no country has ever risen by 32 grades. This proves that Azerbaijan is developing economically and has very good conditions for entrepreneurship.”
In addition, she that that tourism is an important and rapidly developing industry that brings income to the country and helps to create jobs.
"Rapid economic development of Azerbaijan, its economic strength, stability, security and political credibility of the country's leadership helped Azerbaijan to achieve the status of strategic partner in the Caspian region," she concluded.