Gulnara Mamedzade: “It’s crucial to seize the moment with Caspian long-term development concept”

Gulnara Mamedzade: “It’s crucial to seize the moment with Caspian long-term development concept”

December is time for looking back on the year. 2018 was a watershed year for the Caspian Five – they managed to sign the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea. Gulnara Mamedzade, the head of special projects in the Caspian Expert Club, told Vestnik Kavkaza about the key move of the year.

-          What are prospects for the Caspian Five after signing the Convention?

-          President of Russia Vladimir Putin called signing the Caspian Convention ‘epochal.’ President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev also said that the signing was a historic step. For more than 22 years, our countries had been trying to reach the agreement. Now we are facing a new important stage as there are both new prospects and certain risks. One of main risks is failing to use the Convention’s profits.

Russia and other countries reached the consensus right in time. The Convention was signed in 2018 because risks were accumulated over the region. The Convention is based on providing the Caspian Sea with security and protecting it from third countries. We don’t want military bases of foreign countries be deployed nearby our borders.

The Caspian Five should seize the moment with Caspian long-term development concept for next 5-10 years, considering our changing reality. According to Article 14 of the Convention, limits for implementation of some energy and transport projects are lifted, including Trans-Caspian Pipeline. The fact multiplies interests of non-regional states in the Caspian Sea. We can see the interest not only in the West but also in the Middle East, South Asia, and so on.

Very interesting projects are going to be implemented in the region. Moreover, projects in different formats are matching – in Eurasian Economic Union, the SCO, the CIS, and so on. Kazakhstan, Russia, Azerbaijan participate in many regional and transnational projects. We need a road map of energy and transport potential accumulated in the region. It’s important for our countries to state their positions and act in a consolidated manner.

After signing the Convention, the Western countries bucked up. There is a think-tank in the US called the Caspian Political Center. It also has certain interests, fortunately, at the expert level only. They developed an interesting strategy on the Greater Caspian Region. We should keep it in map.

As for military issues, the Caspian fleet will extend its capacity significantly. Probably, it will be relocated from Astrakhan to Kaspiysk where a new deep-sea port to be opened in 2025. A lot of serious projects will be implemented in the region till 2030. Vladimir Putin said that we wanted to see the Caspian region as a multimodal hub of Eurasia. Thus, it’s necessary to integrate the Caspian format into other projects, including the EAEU.

It’s notable that risks and tensions are being formed all round the Caspian region, at the same time the region stays stable due to firm agreements between the five countries.

The problem of information strategy was already discussed. Information processes seriously influence certain opportunities. The Caspian Media Forum became a basic platform but there are some other resource in the sphere, for instance, Caspian-Eurasia, information and analysis centers. They form Caspian identity through the information field. The Caspian Expert Club accumulates expert opinions and ideas. Recently, we held a media training course in Astrakhan, where journalists and students were invited. We saw their big interest. Astrakhan is now turning into a center of Caspian media integration. We should use advantages of the geopolitical situation.

Importance of information influence is recognized at the highest governmental level. I think it will be developed. However, we should watch all projects to be accomplished.

-          Moreover, we all need to share information to each other. On the one hand, the majority of the Caspian countries had common Soviet history; on the other hand, Iran is an unknown territory for many. Turkmenistan is as well…

-          It’s true that mostly we work in the trilateral format, considering big influence of the Russian language. Now we need to move forward and create media resources with several language versions and accumulate views of all five countries there. Modern technologies enable us to listen to and read each other. There are a lot of options for visualization of content. Of course, we face obstacles and political restrictions, but in Turkmenistan in question, we see notable interest of President to the Caspian region. In 2019, Ashkhabad hosts the Caspian Economic Forum. The Caspian region should widen its opportunities. There are many promising spheres – the Middle East strategy, the Caspian and Black Sea Corridor, the Caspian and Caucasus Corridor, and so on. All elements should be reflected in the Caspian development concept. It’s not isolated – it is surrounded by Central Asia, the South Caucasus, the Middle East, the Black Sea. If it is reflected in a political concept, it will be reflected in a media strategy.

-          What do you think about making tourism a locomotive of Caspian economic integration?

-          As for logistics, the Caspian region has certain problems. We had an idea of a passenger cruise liner on the Caspian Sea. It’s a positive moment. It will make communication easier, people will have an opportunity to visit neighboring countries. Azerbaijan is interested in Astrakhan as they have regional ties and contacts. But transport infrastructure is still a problem.

A number of tourists grows in the world; tourism develops, despite international problems. We should use and develop touristic potential.

-          What is new in Russia-Azerbaijan relations after signing the Convention?

-          The relations between the two countries have been at a high level even before the Convention. Azerbaijan and Russia strengthened cooperation and set their interests in the region, including the North-South project. Frequent visits during this year show that the level of Russian-Azerbaijani relations is strategic. A recent Russia-NATO meeting in Baku also proves a high level of trust to Azerbaijan.

Russian-Azerbaijani relations are based on political trust, political interests, and serious economic potential. The Caspian Convention opens additional opportunities as Russia and Azerbaijan are interested in implementation of energy and transport projects, including regional projects with participation of Turkey. China gets involved due to its One Belt, One Road initiative. Our countries always try to find mutual interest in such projects. Azerbaijan and Russia complement each other, considering the difficult geopolitical situation in the region. At the same time, the Caspian region creates opportunities.

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