Tokayev and Aliyev Visit UAE: Increased UAE-Caspian Cooperation?
Author: Josephine Freund
Jan 23, 2023
The Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), which took place January 15-19 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), demonstrated an increased drive for Gulf Arabic-Caspian Region Cooperation. This conference, being the first large-scale global sustainability event to occur since COP27, intended to “enable impactful dialogue between key global stakeholders on practical, pro-climate, pro-growth solutions.” This conference was not only significant not merely in terms of climate change, but also in signaling greater cooperation between Caspian and Arabic Gulf countries. Both Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev attended ADSW and met with UAE officials to sign documents of cooperation.
During Aliyev’s time in Abu Dhabi, he focused on developing bilateral Azerbaijan-UAE cooperation, primarily in the field of renewable energy. The State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) and state-owned UAE renewable energy company Masdar, signed a joint agreement on developing offshore hydrogen and wind-energy projects and onshore wind energy projects.
Aliyev stated, “Mid-term projects will increase the volume up to 10 gigawatts. This is absolutely doable. We have a roadmap for that. This project, only this project, our cooperation with MASDAR will transform Azerbaijan into a very important source of green-energy exports.”
This is not the first instance of Masdar’s engagement with Azerbaijan’s energy sector: it has already been responsible for the joint implementation of the Garadagh solar power plant in Azerbaijan, which has a capacity of 230 MW.
Aliyev also met with the President of the UAE, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the heads of state discussed their eagerness to continue strategic engagement in the fields of politics, economy, and security. Al Nahyan also signaled a possible upcoming visit to Baku.
Similarly, Kazakhstan’s President Tokayev focused on honing strategic cooperation in the field of renewables. Tokayev emphasized his gratitude for UAE patronage, especially for investing in the development of Kazakhstan’s capital city, Astana. Al Nahyan in turn expressed eagerness for honing strategic Kazakhstan-UAE cooperation on renewables: “I believe that our countries have a high potential for cooperation in energy, space, technology and trade. During your visit, important documents in the field of renewable energy were signed. I have high hopes for the full implementation of the agreed projects.”
The documents signed by Al Nahyan and Tokayev included a declaration detailing joint strategic investment projects, as well as agreements between Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure development and Kazakhstani and UAE businesses.
Aliyev’s and Tokayev’s visits demonstrate increased Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries’ interest and investment in Caspian region countries. Levels of investment from not only the UAE, but also Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia have risen in the past two years. These countries have shown special interest in the fields of oil and gas as well as renewable energy, reflecting their own economic foci. However, their increased investment in the Caspian region is not limited to the field of energy.
UAE-based airlines such as Flydubai and Wizz Air have been responsible for bolstering Caspian countries’ tourism industries: in the past year, both airlines have added flight services to cities in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Since Dubai and Abu Dhabi are popular air-transit hub, this has helped global travelers access cities like Samarkand, Tashkent, Almaty, Astana, and Bishkek. Adding Tashkent to its list of flight destinations, Managing Director of Wizz Air Abu Dhabi Michael Berloui stated that a main goal of the company was to “further strengthen connectivity” with the Gulf countries and Central Asia.
A January 19 announcement from Uzbekistan’s Foreign Ministry, detailing an upcoming GCC-Central Asian summit further emphasizes increased interest from the Gulf in the Caspian Region. This strategic-dialogue summit was agreed upon in Riyadh by heads of state from the Central Asian and GCC countries and will work to further develop the already warming ties between the countries.
When examining the Caspian Region’s economic developments, it will be increasingly important to include GCC countries in the analysis. Their growing investment and engagement in the region will not only be important in linking Caspian countries’ economies to each other, but also to global markets as well. Their integration and collaboration with Caspian countries will also be important in offsetting the power Russia and China hold over certain regional economies, especially since much of their investments are funded by vast sovereign wealth funds, thus making them more reliable economic partners to rely on.