Georgia and Azerbaijan Talk Greater Caucasus Cohesion
Oct 28, 2022
October 24, President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, paid an official visit to Georgia for the day. There, he was hosted by Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili in the city of Mtskheta.
During his time in Georgia. Aliyev held a joint press conference with Garibashvili in which they emphasized the importance of regional diplomacy as well as economic and energy cooperation. Toward increasing energy cooperation, Aliyev told the press that, “Azerbaijan intends to export electricity to international markets, and, of course, our route will pass through Georgia – through the Caspian Sea, we have the opportunity to export 157 megawatts.”
Aliyev also emphasized the importance of boosting Azerbaijan-Georgia cooperation to develop the productivity of the Middle Corridor: “I should also emphasize the fact that cargo turnover between Georgia and Azerbaijan has increased by 75%. Baku-Tbilisi-Kars [railroad]may also be used to load 5 million tons, and next year we will invest more capital in this corridor. We are going to use this route to carry cargo to Europe via the Caspian through Azerbaijan and Georgia, and develop new routes. It is in the interest of all countries to increase the direction of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars and to use the ports of Georgia in order to take cargo from Central Asia to Europe. We believe that we have the opportunity to increase this potential. A new reality is being formed and we must be ready for it.” These developments are all the more timely considering the energy crisis afoot in Europe due to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
In turn, Garibashvili in his remarks noted the importance of Azerbaijani-Georgian cohesion in the face of Russian aggression against Ukraine. He stated that peace and stability “is the key condition for the development of our region and the well-being of our people in general,” and that “we all agree that what is happening in Ukraine should be regulated through negotiations.” While Azerbaijan and Georgia have been involved in developing the infrastructure to replace European dependence on Russian energy, the two countries have still had to maintain relatively cordial relations with neighboring Russia.
Garibashvili also noted the importance of current peace initiatives between Azerbaijan and Armenia and assured Georgia’s readiness to “continue and facilitate peaceful negotiations, the policy that we started and launched together.” He emphasized that it was important for the two Caucasus countries to have input throughout the peace process, so that it is not only tailored by foreign parties: especially through the Peaceful Neighborhood Initiative for the South Caucasus. This new Initiative was pitched by Aliyev during the European Political Community summit in Prague in early October. The Peaceful Neighborhood Initiative aims to create a tripartite discussion platform for the three South Caucasus countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia).
Garibashvili noted that this Initiative does not seek to undermine or replace the peace efforts currently in place by other international entities and heads of state. Instead, it will be a mechanism to foster lasting cohesion in the South Caucasus through greater cooperation and dialogue.
Increased cooperation between Georgia and Azerbaijan in both economic and security spheres will be both mutually beneficial to both countries, but also ensure greater regional stability. By investing more attention and resources into endeavors such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipelines, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project, as well as Southern Gas Corridor projects, this not only will create more opportunities for countries of the Caspian region, but it will also lessen the need to depend on Russian energy and supply routes. Projects such as these are fundamental to connecting markets of Türkiye and Europe to those of Central Asia and China.
Furthermore, platforms such as the Peaceful Neighborhood Initiative are essential to ensure a lasting peace process for the South Caucasus. Platforms such as this, used in tandem with the current Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process being brokered by the International Community, will be helpful to ensure, after agreements are reached, that the three countries will be able to work together. While it is important for the International Community to continue to lead the way to a lasting Armenia-Azerbaijan peace agreement, it is vital that there are regional mechanisms in place to foster continued dialogue after the fact.