Hundreds of high-level political figures, CEOs and international experts from around the world explored the economic, political and strategic potential of the region at the third Caspian Forum in Istanbul. Experts and politicians discussed the latest about the Caspian region, particularly efforts to transport its energy resources to an eager European market. Experts described the Caspian as the centre of trade relations between East and West and as the new centre of energy for the world.
Participants at the December 5th forum also discussed the latest on transportation projects designed to establish a modern Silk Road trade route that would link Asia and Europe. Turkey and Azerbaijan have been at the centre of those efforts.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, which is being built upon the initiative of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia, is among the most important transportation projects in reviving the Silk Road on the Caspian Transit Corridor.
The project would not only connect Azerbaijan and Turkey but also connect the Caucasus and Europe, Middle Asia and Europe and “at the end it could connect the East with Europe,” Osmanli said.
Completion of the 826-kilometre railway is scheduled for 2014, and it will be able to transport 1 million passengers and 6.5 million tonnes of freight at the first stage. With these figures Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia will enjoy a boost in trilateral trade, totalling $10 billion annually, according to data released at the forum.
With the railway project, continuous transport between London and Beijing would be available. A train that will depart from London would pass through the Marmaray and then follow Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and through the Caspian Sea would reach Beijing, experts said.
Marmaray, Turkey’s first under-sea tunnel in Istanbul, which connects Europe and Asia, was inaugurated on October 29th.
“The great dream has already been realised,” said Osmanli, adding that starting in 2015 trade products from China would reach Europe without any obstacles by means of railway.
In addition to railway and highway projects, new ports with new and modern infrastructures are under construction in Azerbaijan (Alat International Sea Trade Port) and in Kazakhstan, Osmanli said.
“In the upcoming years there will be special transport roads through the Caspian Sea, especially when there are billions of goods to be transported from East to West or vice versa,” he said.
Halil Akıncı, a retired ambassador and general secretary of the Turkic Council, told SES Türkiye that the revival of a new Silk Road would “facilitate and accelerate the delivery of far-eastern products to the western world.”
“Chinese goods, for example, which would depart from the northwest of the country, will arrive to Europe in 12 days. On the other hand, if China would prefer to use the Suez Canal or the sea road, the duration of the voyage would take 45 days and 23,000 kilometres,” he said.
“China has already guaranteed 10,000 shipments per year. It seems that our new Silk Road will be very busy,” he said.
Experts at the forum said that trade volume will double in the next five or six years, with the revival of the Silk Road.
According to Asian Development Bank data, the Caspian Transit Corridor will spark GDP growth across the region by as much as 50 percent by 2020.
Full article: Turkey, Azerbaijan lead revival of modern Silk Road (Turkish Weekly)