Our Analytics 27 april — 14:15

Ilham Aliyev's path, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin's belts (Results)

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BY ELNUR MAMMADOV

This week a working visit of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to Beijing was held at the invitation of the President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping. The purpose of the visit was to participate in the Second International Forum 'One Belt, One Road.' The local media covered in detail the course of the meetings held by the head of state, his speeches, as well as business meetings of the Chinese and Azerbaijani sides held during the visit. But all this was described somehow dryly and in official language. Although behind every dry official information there was a clearly visible event chronicle of historical significance for Azerbaijan.

Dozens of heads of state and government arrived in China to participate in the forum, which underlined the strategic importance of the historic meeting. However, President Ilham Aliyev was one of the first to arrive, and, as subsequent meetings, consultations and speeches of the head of state showed, the visit pursued strategically important goals and objectives. Although the event as a whole was of an economic nature, during his visit, Ilham Aliyev paid no less attention to political problems. The analysis of the results of the president's visit can be conditionally considered in two dimensions: political and economic.

The most striking and impressive in essence were the meetings of the head of state with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Noting that Azerbaijan was one of the main partners for China's cooperation in Eurasia, Xi Jinping stressed that Azerbaijan was among those who first responded and actively participated in the implementation of the 'One Belt, One Road' project, and was a natural partner for restoration of the Great Silk Road.

Head of one of the world's leading superpowers called the head of Azerbaijan a longtime friend of the Chinese people, personally making efforts to develop Chinese-Azerbaijani relations and cooperation in all fields.

Noting the growing prestige of Baku in the international arena, ensuring stability, improving the well-being of its people, achieving economic development, the head of China stressed that official Beijing supported the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Azerbaijan. He also stated the importance of the Trans-Caspian transport corridor in the framework of the 'One Belt, One Road' project.

'We already have a number of results of cooperation, which brings real benefits to our people,' Xi Jinping stressed, saying about joint readiness to continue the implementation of the 'One Belt, One Road' project, to constantly deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in all areas for the sake of joint development and prosperity. A member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Chairman of the People's Political Consultative Council of China, Wang Yang, gave a no less appreciation of the activities of the head of Azerbaijan in the development of bilateral relations.

And the head of state met with President Vladimir Putin in Beijing on Friday. Putin said that the current level of Azerbaijani-Russian relations allowed to solve many issues of the bilateral and regional agenda. He stressed that Russia will continue to make efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In particular, he said: 'Trade and economic ties are developing. We even created, it may be said, on your initiative, a special mechanism of interaction in the trade and economic sphere. In my opinion, this initiative is developing well. Maybe we will ask our colleagues from the Russian and Azerbaijani sides to speak out on this. But on the whole, we are satisfied with the development of our relations.'

Please note that Putin, like Xi Jinping, emphasised the personal initiative of President Ilham Aliyev in the development of bilateral relations. And this is a relationship with two great political and economic powers. Last year alone, the trade turnover between Russia and Azerbaijan increased by 14% and reached $2.5 billion. Yes, trade between the two countries is growing rapidly, but at the same time Moscow and Baku are united by many common issues on the international agenda. Ilham Aliyev and Vladimir Putin agreed to hold a summit of the geopolitical axis Moscow-Baku-Tehran in Russia in August.

The Azerbaijani delegation, headed by President Ilham Aliyev, also participated in the 'One Belt, One Road' Forum. And the bright speech of Ilham Aliyev did not remain out of sight of the summit participants. Ilham Aliyev focused his attention on the consequences of the Karabakh conflict, calling the war unleashed by Armenia the main threat to regional stability and peace. The President elaborated on the ongoing reform policy: the rapid economic development of Azerbaijan led to the transformation of the country. The main goal of the government is to diversify the economy by investing in human capital and creating sustainable development opportunities. For this purpose, a favourable business environment is being formed in Azerbaijan, one of the most advanced in the world.

And it is not at all accidental that investments in the country's economy over the past 15 years amounted to $260 billion: about half of these investments were foreign investments. At the same time, the external debt of Azerbaijan is at a very low level and makes up about 19% of GDP. Foreign exchange reserves exceed external debt by five times. Since the beginning of the year, the country's GDP has grown by 3%, and inflation is merely 2.1%. Another priority of the government of Azerbaijan is that the state pays special attention to the diversification of the economy, the development of industry, agriculture, tourism, the services sector and ICT. Such statistics, of course, could not remain without the attention of investors.

And here the head of state unwittingly uncovered the reason why he was so warmly welcomed by the leaders of China and other countries. According to him, one of the main priorities of the country is investment in the transport sector. Taking advantage of its geographical location and investing in the transport sector, Azerbaijan creates a bridge between Asia and Europe. And although the country is landlocked, it has become one of the transport centres, has created an extensive railway network. Over the past 15 years, 15,000 km of roads and highways have been laid in the country. By creating a modern transport and logistics infrastructure, Azerbaijan has become not only a transport centre, but also promotes cooperation between the countries participating in the East-West and North-South projects.The historic visit of Ilham Aliyev was reinforced by signed agreements of strategic importance: during the visit of the head of state, agreements with Chinese companies were signed, the range of which was very wide: from agriculture to ICT. Thus, between the giant Chinese state corporation China CAMC Engineering Co. Ltd. (CAMCE) and the Azerbaijan-based AS Qrup Investment Company an agreement on strategic cooperation for the implementation of large projects was signed. CAMCE will provide financial and consulting support to AS Qrup Investment in two areas: the creation of an agro-industrial and logistics centre and an expansion of the logistics base. In the first direction, the activities of AS Aqro, a company owned by AS Qrup Investment Company, will expand: agro-industrial and logistics centres will be established in Guba, Goychay and Baku. And the second direction is aimed at a multiple increase in logistics services provided by this group of companies.

The base of Fresh Logistics Company will be increased, the number of trucks with refrigeration units will be increased to 200. The company currently transports goods domestically and abroad using 20 trucks with refrigeration units. Under the agreement, the parties will also explore potential cooperation opportunities in other areas, for which reciprocal visits and meetings at the management level of companies are envisaged.

AzerTelecom, the main Internet provider that connects Azerbaijan with the international Internet network and is a subsidiary of the country's first mobile operator Bakcell, has signed a strategic memorandum of understanding with China Telecom, a leading company in the field of information and communication technologies, in the framework of Azerbaijan’s Digital HUB program, which aims to turn the country into a digital centre of the region. This document reflects the mutual understanding and cooperation between the major telecommunication companies of the two countries on the creation of the Asia-Europe telecommunications corridor (Digital Silk Road) within the Digital HUB program.

Another agreement - on strategic partnership in the transport and transit sphere - was signed by the companies ADY Container LLC (a subsidiary of Azerbaijan Railways) and the Chinese Xi`an Continental Bridge International Logistics Co. Ltd. Each company plans this year to send on the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TMTM) 30 trains of 2,460 containers.

President Ilham Aliyev expressed interest in the activity of large Chinese companies in the country. He stated this during a meeting with the CEO of CETC International Corporation Wu Manchin. The corporation is one of the specialised companies of China in the field of radio electronics, it has established cooperation with Azerbaijan in this field and is satisfied with this.

ZTE Chairman Li Zixue, China Poly Group Chairman Su Niyansha, President of China National Electric Engineering Zhao Hai, and Huawei Chairman Liang Hua also told the head of state about their intention to strengthen partnerships with Azerbaijan.

And each of these companies is one of the leading in the world in its field. And their presence in the Azerbaijani market promises the country considerable dividends in various sectors of the economy. Today they receive the welcome of the head of state, and tomorrow they will come to Azerbaijan with a multi-billion dollar investment portfolio. That is why President Ilham Aliyev gave the prerogative of a niche of strategic interaction with the Chinese giants, each of which ends with a major investment in the Azerbaijani economy. But the companies themselves are no less interested in such meetings, because Azerbaijan is a reliable partner with an attractive market.

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