Baku, Azerbaijan, April 20
By Leman Zeynalova – Trend:
Azerbaijan is an important node in New Silk Road, Charles Stevens, the founder of The New Silk Road Project (www.thenewsilkroadproject.com), told Trend.
Stevens pointed out that Baku sits at the crossroad of developing north-south and east-west transportation routes.
"These span from Russia to India, via the newly developed Astara rail bridge, and China to Europe respectively. As synergies are created and scale brings cost efficiencies, Azerbaijan is well placed to benefit from a strategy which will help diversify its economy. Azerbaijan is an increasingly important node in this growing multimodal network with the development of Baku Port at Alat," he added.
Stevens noted that over the past five years, the implementation of China’s Belt and Road Initiative has been opaque and unevenly dispersed across Eurasia.
"There is minimal clarity as to what foreign investment constitutes a ‘BRI project or not’ and those that are ‘BRI projects’ seem to be concentrated around the India Ocean littoral. This centres on East Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan and Southeast Asia. The implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, in the regions contiguous with the major arteries of the ancient Silk Road, are underdeveloped. This includes Kazakhstan, Iran, the South Caucasus, and Turkey," he said.
He believes that the Belt and Road Initiative can bring great opportunities but also a multitude of challenges.
"Each country needs to assess the benefits of potential projects on their individual merits. These may include financial terms, labour agreements, public benefits, environmental impact, and long term economic benefits," noted Stevens.
He pointed out that the New Silk Road has galvanised discussion around the topic of connectivity and cooperation regardless of the actual outcome of the initiative.
"This plays an important role in stimulating much more than just investment but also cultural understanding, people to people interaction, and educational partnerships. Challenges include contractual transparency, environmental standards, and labour agreements. These vary widely across projects. Careful screening processes and consultation with stakeholders before implementation will help to ensure that the project bring long term economic value and developmental benefits," he added.
Azerbaijan became a signatory to the Belt and Road Energy Partnership Declaration in October 2018.
The document emphasized that the Belt and Road Initiative will provide new opportunities for the international cooperation as an open and inclusive platform. By signing the Declaration, the signatory countries have also expressed their support for Building the Belt and Road Energy Partnership.
One Belt, One Road initiative was put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Azerbaijan expressed its support to the initiative when the country signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Joint Encouragement of the Establishment of Silk Way Economic Belt in 2015.
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