Azerbaijani, Afghan, Turkmen presidents met through videoconferencing

02 july 2020, 13:20

On the initiative of the Afghan President, a meeting via videoconferencing has been held among President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.

The head of state made a speech at the meeting.

Speech of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev

Dear President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.

Dear President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.

Let me cordially greet you and express my satisfaction over participation in today's trilateral meeting. I thank President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani for the initiative to hold the trilateral meeting. This meeting is useful in terms of discussing the current state and further development of our cooperation.

Azerbaijan has friendly and fraternal ties with Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Numerous mutual visits at the level of heads of state and our meetings as part of international events have made an important contribution to the development of these ties.

Since 2002, Azerbaijan has been participating in NATO peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan. We have contributed to the establishment of peace and stability in Afghanistan by providing military force, multimodal transit, training and financial assistance. The number of Azerbaijani peacekeepers in the Resolute Support Mission was increased by 30 percent in 2018 to reach 120 people.

Thanks to the major investments made in the transport sector, a modern transport and logistical infrastructure has been created in Azerbaijan. In 2018, the Alat International Sea Trade Port with a transshipment capacity of 15 million tons of cargo and 100,000 containers was commissioned. In the future, the port's capabilities can be increased to 25 million tons of cargo and 1 million containers.

Azerbaijan has the largest fleet in the Caspian Sea and it consists of 260 ships. Since 2013, a total of 10 ships have been built at the modern shipyard operating in Azerbaijan, and 140 vessels and platforms have been overhauled. Currently, the construction of two RoPax ferries and three oil tankers is ongoing at the plant. For 2021, there are plans to build additional vessels. These vessels will serve to increase cargo transportation in the Caspian Sea.

At the same time, Azerbaijan attaches great importance to the development of automobile roads. Over the past 16 years, a total of 16,000 kilometers of roads have been built in Azerbaijan. according to the latest report of the Davos World Economic Forum, Azerbaijan is in 27th place in the world for the quality of roads. Six international airports have been built in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is in 12th place in the world in terms of air transport efficiency.

In 2017, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway was commissioned. I consider this a historic event. It is no coincidence that this railway is referred to as the Iron Silk Road. This project connects continents. Azerbaijan, as a country located between Asia and Europe, makes a great contribution to the transport and logistical sector in the entire Eurasian region. The volume of goods transported by the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway in the first six months of 2020 is 3.7 times higher than in the same period in 2019.

The railway infrastructure within the country is being updated. According to the latest report of the Davos Economic Forum, Azerbaijan ranks 11th in the world in terms of railway efficiency. In general, the Davos Forum report puts Azerbaijan in 34th place in the world for the level of transport infrastructure.

The East-West transport corridor is already fully operational. In 2019, a total of 8.7 million tons of cargo were transported along this corridor. In the first four months of this year, this figure has already reached 3 million tons. Azerbaijan is also an active participant in the North-South transport corridor. All work has been completed on the Azerbaijani segment of the corridor. A total of 2.1 million tons were transported along this corridor last year and 800,000 tons of cargo in the four months of this year. Within the framework of the East-West transport corridor, Azerbaijan has achieved positive results in cooperation with Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Nine out of 21 documents signed during my official visit to Turkmenistan in November 2018 relate to the transport sector. In the first half of 2020, more than 1.5 million tons of cargo were handled in the Alat international trade sea port in the direction of Turkmenistan and back. This is 28 percent more compared to the corresponding period of last year. The volume of dry cargo handled has increased by 7.7 times and amounted to more than 370,000 tons. The Turkmen side has been invited to participate in the consortium to be created to manage the fertilizer terminal due to be built in the port.

After connecting the Lapis-Lazuli route with the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway in 2018, goods from Afghanistan began to be transported from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan and further to the west. The first experimental cargo shipped from Afghanistan in December 2018 was delivered to the Baku port within 12 days. In January-May of this year, 55,500 tons of cargo were transported through Azerbaijan in the direction of Afghanistan and back. During this period, Azerbaijan delivered 12,000 tons of cargo belonging to our country and other countries to Afghanistan by transport planes. Azerbaijan has established itself on the world stage as a reliable transit country. Our country has turned into one of the important transport and logistical centers of Eurasia.

Azerbaijan fruitfully cooperates with Afghanistan and Turkmenistan also in a multilateral format. Within the international organizations, our countries always support the territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of each other's borders. Coronavirus, which has turned into the most pressing problem of the present time, has led to tragic consequences in the world. During the pandemic, solidarity and cooperation between countries and within international organizations are important. Despite the negative consequences of the pandemic, Azerbaijan took additional measures to transport transit goods. The East-West transport corridor continuously carries out international cargo transportation.

With the support of 120 states, Azerbaijan was elected the chairing country in the Non-Aligned Movement. In October last year, the Non-Aligned Movement summit was held in Azerbaijan, where presidents of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan voiced valuable proposals for developing cooperation within the framework of the Movement.

On the initiative of Azerbaijan as the country chairing the Non-Aligned Movement, a summit on the fight against coronavirus was organized in the format of a video conference of the Contact Group of the Movement on 4 May. The presidents of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan also attended that meeting. I express my gratitude to the presidents of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan for participating in the Summit.

More than 130 countries of the world recently supported another initiative of mine – the proposal to hold, in the format of a video conference, a special session of the UN General Assembly at the level of heads of state and government dedicated to the COVID-19 pandemic. I take this opportunity to thank the presidents of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan for supporting this initiative.

We need to continue efforts to further expand the capabilities of the East-West transport corridor. To optimize freight traffic, it is important to unify tariffs. I propose to hold a working meeting of the transport agencies of our countries to discuss the results of today's meeting and further steps.

The European Union’s interest in the East-West transport corridor is growing. President of the European Council Mr. Donald Tusk, who paid a visit to Azerbaijan in July 2019, visited the Alat International Trade Sea Port and familiarized himself with its capabilities on the ground. Several European countries have already joined this corridor. Other partner states are also showing great interest in the transportation of goods along this corridor.

The summit of the Non-Aligned Movement held in the format of a video conference was attended by senior officials from the African Union and the European Union. The participation of the European Union in an event of the Non-Aligned Movement for the first time became a historic event. Azerbaijan will continue efforts aimed at developing ties between the two structures.

The countries of Europe and Asia are participants in the East-West transport corridor. I believe that the topic of today's meeting – transport and logistics – could be the first step for tangible cooperation between the European Union and the Non-Aligned Movement.

Along with bilateral cooperation, the concept of trilateral cooperation occupies an important place in the foreign policy of Azerbaijan. I am confident that the results of our trilateral meeting today will be successful and contribute to regional cooperation and economic development. Thank you!