President Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Kyrgyzstan earlier this week laid the groundwork for the First Interstate Council of Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan and the signing of new cooperation agreements between the two countries.
President Aliyev said Baku and Bishkek have been holding the Interstate Council with the aim of expanding cooperation and exploring more opportunities, including those related to trade and economic activities.
“The Interstate Council and the Intergovernmental Commission are the mechanisms that will constantly allow us, as they say, to keep our finger on the pulse and see what we must do to reach the goals that we have set ourselves,” President Aliyev said at the first meeting of the Interstate Council in Bishkek on October 11.
The all-new formula of cooperation between the two countries consolidates the Declaration on Strategic Partnership that was signed during Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov’s visit to Azerbaijan six months ago. Currently, much of what was identified in the Declaration is already being implemented in multiple spheres from cultural and humanitarian cooperation, economic and transport interaction to issues related to education and high technologies.
Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan established diplomatic relations in 1993, following their separation from the dissolved Soviet Union in 1991. The parliaments of both countries host working groups for Azerbaijan-Kyrgyzstan inter-parliamentary relations. Since launching diplomatic ties, nearly 60 documents of strategic partnership and cooperation have been signed.
The transport interaction was high on the agenda during President Aliyev’s recent visit to Kyrgyzstan. The Azerbaijani president said Baku supported the aspirations of Kyrgyzstan for reaching a broader foreign marketplace, including those in Europe, and construction of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway with access to the Caspian Sea.
“On our side of the Caspian up until European consumers, there is already an extensive transport infrastructure – rail, road, air, and also taking into account the potential of our cargo air transport. Today, having no access to the world ocean, Azerbaijan has already created an important transport network,” President Aliyev said.
“Of course, the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway will be part of the Middle Corridor. The fact that this is happening now is also understandable, of course. But the main thing is that all projects being implemented in your region and the region of the western Caspian should be synchronized so that we can plan both to increase and expand our port capabilities.”
The Trans-Caspian International Trade Route (TITR), known also as the “Middle Corridor” is seen as the main pivot for realizing the high transit potential between Central Asia and western Caspian countries.
TITR runs from the Chinese Lianyungang seaport to the Chinese-Kazakh border, further through Kazakhstan, the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, and Georgia to Ukraine and Poland. Goods are transported by railway to the Kazakh seaports of Aktau and Kuryk and sent to the Baku International Sea Trade Port (Port of Baku) in Azerbaijan by ships via the Caspian Sea. In Azerbaijan, containers are transported along the 826-kilometer Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway toward Georgia and ultimately Türkiye. The route further splits up into two with both leading to Europe — one of them passes through the Turkish cities of Mersin and Istanbul and the Mediterranean Sea, while the other one stretches to the Ukrainian city of Chernomorsk via the Black Sea.
Azerbaijan has been contributing to leveraging the potential of TITR through the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and the Baku International Sea Trade Port. The soon-to-be-launched multi-modal Zangazur corridor project is also expected to join the route as an integral part of TITR.
President Aliyev said in the First Interstate Council of Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan on October 11 that Azerbaijan plans to expand the potential of the Alat Trade Port from 15 to 25 million tons.
China, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan signed an agreement in September to begin construction of a railroad that would link the three countries and establish a shorter route to Europe via the Caspian Sea bypassing sanctions-hit Russia. The 280-kilometer route will cost $4.1 billion, Kyrgyz Transport Minister Erkinbek Osoyev said. It is expected to shorten the route from China to Europe by 900 kilometers and shrink the travel time by eight days.
The start of construction and commissioning of the new China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan-Caspian railway will expand Bishkek's access to new trade opportunities and reduce its transportation costs.