The development of the Middle Corridor from China and Central Asia to Europe is of significant importance to Georgia and its future. The country, along with Azerbaijan, holds a crucial position along the route. The demand for the corridor increased greatly after the conflict in Ukraine, highlighting the necessity for coordinated efforts among the participating nations.
The summit of Heads of State and Government of the participating countries of the UN Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia - SPECA, held on 24th November 2023 at Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku is crucial for Georgia. Alongside Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, the Heads of State and representatives from Central Asian nations, the Prime Ministers of Georgia, Irakli Garibashvili, and Hungary, Viktor Orban, attended the summit.
At the summit was adopted the Middle Corridor Digitalisation Roadmap's and signed the Baku Declaration's by the Presidents of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and the Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan.
The Baku Declaration aimed to enhance the position of SPECA as a platform for economic collaboration and ongoing discussion, in order to scrutinize channels for leveraging the advantages of regional consolidation in unity and devising collective approaches to surmount existing shared obstacles. SPECA member states concurred to collaborate in crucial domains such as communication, commerce, conveyance and logistics, digital modernization and progression, industry, power, aqueous resource administration, surroundings, and ecological development.
The Baku Declaration emphasized to prioritize cooperation areas include the digitalization and eco-friendliness of transit routes, trade and transport facilitation and energy connectivity, incorporating green energy within the Trans-Caspian Medium East-West Corridor.
Consequently, the participating nations resolved to implement the Roadmap for Digitalisation of Multimodal Exchange of Data and Documents encompassing the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route.
The significance of the Trans-Caspian Medium East-West Corridor was underscored as one of the most effective and environmentally friendly connections among SPECA member states, various regions in Asia, Europe and beyond.
The Baku Declaration signatories have called for increased exploitation of the corridor's intercontinental transport capabilities. To enhance transport connectivity along the corridor, the responsible authorities of SPECA member states have been advised to boost communication efficiency among transport firms, logistics centres, freight forwarders, and national operators.
Such improvements are significance for the Georgian economy. The Baku Declaration principles align with Georgia's cooperative efforts with Azerbaijan and Turkey to develop the Middle Corridor, and external funding is allocated actively towards this goal.
Thus, the World Bank's Resident Representative in Turkey, Lopez, recently announced a collaboration with Turkey on the Trans-Caspian International Transport Corridor (Middle Corridor) project, which spans from the China-Kazakhstan border, through Kazakhstan, the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, to Europe. The World Bank representative suggested that the first phase of the trade route, which connects Georgia with Bulgaria and passes through Istanbul, should be operationalized. The anticipated cost of the first phase's realization exceeds $600 million.
It is important to note that all SPECA participating states acknowledge Georgia's territorial integrity and endeavour for its speedy restoration. In contrast, Armenia's stance on Georgia's territorial integrity is dissimilar.
It consistently opposes the repatriation of Georgian refugees to Abkhazia and Samachablo in the UNPO and favors separatism and fragmentation of Georgia. This strategy has been executed by Yerevan through the separatist entity known as "Artsakh" established within the occupied region of Azerbaijani Karabakh, which has recognised the "independence" of the separatist administrations of Sukhumi and Tskhinvali.
France, considered as Armenia's main ally, was accused of proposing a de facto capitulation and abandonment of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region to Russia during its aggression towards Georgia in 2008 by their President, Nicolas Sarkozy. Additionally, their behaviour towards Georgia was deemed despicable.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev also referenced this at the SPECA summit.
"There are many unsuccessful, dependent countries in the world, wishing to sit on two or more chairs at the same time, serving several masters and turning themselves into an arena of confrontation between larger states. One of them is Armenia, neighbouring Azerbaijan.
Countries that rely on foreign sponsors cannot be deemed fully independent. Their policies do not reflect the will of their people and their fate lies in the hands of others. In contrast, SPECA member states are truly independent countries as they possess distinct foreign and domestic policies.
Economic development cannot be achieved without stability. Unfortunately, numerous wars, conflicts, and bloody clashes are currently occurring in various parts of the world. Peace, stability, and tranquillity prevail in our nations, and successful development and construction projects are underway. This is a significant accomplishment and triumph for our governments and people.
Referring to Azerbaijan's economic achievements, Ilham
Aliyev stated that its robust economy empowers it to follow an autonomous foreign policy path. Over the last two decades, Azerbaijan's gross domestic product has quadrupled. Budget revenues have risen over 30-fold, and foreign trade turnover by over 10-fold. Currently, Azerbaijan's direct external debt equates to around 10% of its gross domestic product, while foreign exchange reserves are ten times greater than the direct external public debt. Additionally, the poverty rate has been reduced from roughly 50% to 5.5%.
A favourable investment environment has been established in the country, leading to over 310 billion US dollars invested in Azerbaijan's economy over the past 20 years. The non-energy sector accounts for nearly 200 billion US dollars of the total investment.
The achievement of these successes in Azerbaijan has undeniably relied on close cooperation with Turkey and Georgia, as well as Central Asian countries. Azerbaijan has made significant contributions to the economic development of Georgia by investing in the Middle Corridor infrastructure. This is noteworthy considering Azerbaijan is one of the main investors in the Georgian economy.
In recent years, Azerbaijan has invested billions of pounds in its transport infrastructure, according to Ilham Aliyev. The country has emerged as one of the major transport and logistics hubs in Eurasia, situated on the North-South and East-West transport corridors. Aliyev further underlined the strategic significance of Central Asia and Azerbaijan as a shared historical, cultural and geopolitical space of growing importance.
During the SPECA summit, President Kasym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan stressed the significance of upholding the territorial integrity of sovereign nations in his meeting with President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan. President Kasym-Jomart Tokayev congratulated President Ilham Aliyev and the people of Azerbaijan on the momentous occasion of upholding the nation's territorial sovereignty in compliance with international law and UN Security Council resolutions.
Georgia recalls the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev's, response to a provocative question posed by Margarita Simonyan regarding the recognition of the self-proclaimed entities of "DNR" and "LNR" during his meeting with Russian President, Vladimir Putin, in St. Petersburg. Tokayev unequivocally stated that Kazakhstan will never recognise the independence of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, or any other similar quasi-states. Collaborating with SPECA nations offers Georgia practical assistance in reinstating its territorial sovereignty and enabling the repatriation of refugees.
This initiative is also actively implemented in Azerbaijan, whereby Ilham Aliyev has reported that Indigenous Displaced Persons (IDPs) are resettling within the Great Return Programme. As of 2026, approximately 140,000 IDPs will be able to return to their homeland. And this provides hope that the restoration of Georgia's territorial integrity and the return of Georgian refugees to Abkhazia and Samachablo are within reach.