President Ilham Aliyev forges new path for South Caucasus – only regional actors can jointly secure peace
Since Azerbaijan has restored its sovereignty and territorial integrity just recently, as a result of anti-terror measures undertaken in Karabakh, a completely new political situation will emerge in the South Caucasus. A one-of-a-kind opportunity has presented itself today for Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia – a chance to start cooperating in a trilateral format. Thanks to President Ilham Aliyev’s strong political determination and decisive actions, this is already a reality. The next step now is the signing of a peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia. And here, Georgia’s role as a mediator, as President Ilham Aliyev pointed out, is “the most correct option”. Certainly, within the present geopolitical context, Georgia likely stands as the sole viable mediator. This is primarily because of the strained Moscow-Yerevan relations, the Western stance being influenced by France’s bias, and the ongoing confrontation between Russia and the West.
Regular high-level visits between Azerbaijan and Georgia have become a consistent practice. President Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Georgia on October 8 marks his 11th visit to the country. Before this, on October 24, 2022, President Ilham Aliyev conducted a working visit to Georgia’s Mtskheta. At the same time, on April 7 of this year, Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili visited Azerbaijan’s Gabala.
Both countries, especially in today’s era of conflict and division, recognize the importance of bolstering their relationships with their nearest neighbors.
Strong bonds of friendship between Georgia and Azerbaijan have a deep-rooted history. The relationship between these two nations is founded upon principles of friendship, brotherhood, and mutual respect.
“Our traditional meetings serve this purpose so that our countries become closer to each other, so that our peoples become closer friends with each other. For centuries, our peoples have lived in the conditions of good neighborliness and friendship, and this is still the case today. This is important for both our countries, and at the same time, it is a very important condition for the region, including, first of all, the South Caucasus,” President Ilham Aliyev said during a joint press conference with PM Garibashvili.
Azerbaijan and Georgia are now also connected through multiple projects spanning various sectors of the economy. In 2022, the two countries saw a trade turnover of $771 million, with a positive balance of $500 million in bilateral trade. During the period from January through August 2023, the bilateral trade turnover surpassed $612.87 million, and the positive balance in bilateral trade remained at $444 million.
Moreover, Azerbaijan hosts 815 companies backed by Georgian capital, out of which 533 are currently operational. Georgia has invested a total of $279 million in Azerbaijan, while Azerbaijan has invested $3.4 billion in Georgia.
“Azerbaijan is one of Georgia’s biggest trading partners – it is in top five. This year, our trade has increased by 15 percent. We had record indicators last year. In terms of cargo transportation, the volume has also increased significantly. I can confirm that we cooperate in many areas – energy, transport, logistics, railway and other fields. We have also discussed the development and prospects of the Middle Corridor project. As you know, we work in coordination with Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan so that the project develops successfully. The railway project is being expanded. Highways, seaports – these are all on our agenda,” PM Garibashvili said in his press statement.
Amid a sweeping global crisis that has ushered in substantial transformations in the global energy and transportation sectors, the South Caucasus, with Georgia and Azerbaijan at its core, has gained immense significance.
“We have very ambitious plans in both energy and transport fields. Of course, we already have a lot of achievements. I think it is needless to talk about completed projects, everyone knows that. I simply want to say that our joint energy and transport projects serve the energy and transport security of many countries today,” President Ilham Aliyev said.
Indeed, as substantial projects loom on the horizon, including the enlargement of the Kulevi port on the Black Sea coast, the development of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway’s carrying capacity, and the “Green Energy Corridor” project, Azerbaijan and Georgia are poised not only to bolster regional energy and transportation capabilities but also to provide substantial benefit to the broader Eurasian continent.
Azerbaijan and Georgia serve as exemplary model for fostering harmonious neighborly relations, and, as Georgia’s PM Irakli Garibashvili noted, President Ilham Aliyev has made a great contribution to this cause.
“Azerbaijan is a strategic partner of Georgia and a friendly country. Friendly and fraternal relations have existed between our countries for centuries. The traditional friendship between our peoples continues, and [President Ilham Aliyev] has made a great contribution to this cause. He has done a lot for the strengthening of this friendship and brotherhood,” the PM added.
Azerbaijan and Georgia’s cooperation across multiple domains is yielding fruitful outcomes. Envisioning the progress and prosperity that the South Caucasus can attain becomes quite straightforward once Armenia takes that final stride toward a peace treaty. Regional countries should be the primary architects of peace in the South Caucasus. President Ilham Aliyev’s proposal for trilateral cooperation is not just justified, logical and correct, but also indisputable. The critical point is to seize this exceptional and historic opportunity.
This article originally appeared on Trend on October 9, 2023.