By Azer Ahmadbayli - Trend analytical center expert:
The unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the developments around Ukraine, require Azerbaijan to double its efforts to assert its national interests, to become an economically more attractive country using available resources and a favorable geographical position and attracting new regional and continental projects.
Being one of the world's geopolitical power centers, as well as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, China will also become the world's first economy in the near future according to the forecasts of the leading international institutions.
Strengthening partnership with this country and changing its de facto neutral position on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue to a more objective and principled one would meet the fundamental interests of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's visit to China was another action to achieve these goals.
At a meeting with the Azerbaijani president, Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping mentioned the Great Silk Road, once connecting the two countries. Perhaps, this can be one of the key factors, if not the most important one, in the further long-term partnership of mutual interest between the two countries.
If one recalls that the EU ($560 billion trade turnover) has become the main trading partner of China as of 2013, it becomes obvious that almost the world's first economy with its huge production is extremely interested in creating new trade and transport routes for exporting goods to the EU.
The Great Silk Road has not disappeared. Four countries, namely, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey started restoring one of its main routes. They initiated the "Silk Wind" project, envisaging launching the container trains from China through Kazakhstan, the Caspian Sea, the Caucasus, and then through Turkey - to Europe.
The purpose of the Silk Wind project is to create a multimodal train route (container/RO RO) with a primary information exchange system between customs services and railway operators of the project's partners. Countries participating in the project plan to introduce a single tariff on cargo transportation.
The total length of the route is 4,192 kilometers with the estimated travel time of 12 days.
Once constructed, it will be the shortest route for delivering the international cargoes from China's western borders to the European Union.
The peak capacity of the project can make nearly 15-17 million tonnes per year. The Chinese side has given preliminary consent to provide this line with cargo.
Today, for the full readiness of the route, it is necessary to rectify the Jezkazgan-Beyneu railway section (Kazakhstan), to complete the construction of the international sea port in the Alat settlement (Azerbaijan) and the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. The Marmaray tunnel in Turkey has already been commissioned.
The governments of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia are expected to sign an agreement on the Silk Wind project in summer of 2014 in Turkey, Kazakh Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications, Azat Bekturov earlier told Trend.
The revival of the Great Silk Road under the Silk Wind project can bring significant economic benefits to Azerbaijan. At the same time, like the previously implemented oil and gas transport projects (BTC and BTE), this inter-continental project will increase Azerbaijan's importance as a country pursuing a balanced policy and connecting the East and West.
Edited by C.N.