Economic integration

Economic integration as a catalyst for stability in the South Caucasus

The end of the 44-day war between Azerbaijan and Armenia has created a new geopolitical landscape in the region which creates new opportunities for economic development and regional integration. While there are many challenges to achieving such integration – from Armenian domestic political opposition to influential lobby networks in the West – there are significant economic gains for the entire Caucasus region if such challenges can be achieved. be overcome, EU journalist writing.

Due to the occupation of Azerbaijani territories after the first Karabakh war, towns, villages and all infrastructure were destroyed. Different parts of essential transport infrastructure – highways and railroads – were cut off from each other. Armenia’s borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey have been closed for a long time and, as a result, regional cooperation and economic integration have been disrupted.

The trilateral declaration signed by the Russian Federation, Azerbaijan and Armenia on November 10, 2020, which ended all hostilities in the conflict zone, opened a new opportunity for win-win cooperation in the reopening of all transport corridors in the region. According to clause 9 of the trilateral declaration, “All economic and transport connections in the region must be unblocked. The Republic of Armenia guarantees the security of transport links between the western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan in order to organize the free movement of people, vehicles and goods in both directions ”. This means that Azerbaijan will restore the infrastructure connecting its Autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan to mainland Azerbaijan via the province of Syunik (Zangezur in Azerbaijani).

The Zangezur Corridor is strategically important for all states in the region, as it will unlock both rail and road infrastructure in the region. It is very important for Baku to restore the Zangezur corridor to lift the blockade imposed for years on the Nakhichevan region. Armenia will also get rail and road access via Azerbaijan to Russia, and Armenian railways could also be connected to the Iranian rail system. These factors will help Armenia to stimulate economic growth. According to a study published by Berlin Economics, conflict resolution and normalization of bilateral relations would have a substantial impact on Armenian trade. The benefits for Armenia would include an increase in total trade, but also lower prices for imports from Azerbaijan and Turkey, and higher prices for its exports.

By now, it is very clear that unblocking all communication and transport connections will support economic development and integration, which in turn would support the peace process. Armenia and Azerbaijan can open a new page of bilateral relations by unblocking the Zanguezur Corridor, as the two countries will benefit from regional economic integration. Nevertheless, during the post-conflict period, there are still groups of people in Armenian society who are against the unblocking of the Zangezur corridor. These people see the reopening of transport links as a political defeat and support a vindictive ideology.

However, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan made a positive statement on the reopening of transport channels in the region. Speaking at a meeting of leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries, the Prime Minister of Armenia stressed that “We hope to achieve concrete results in the near future. This means that Armenia will receive rail and automobile communications with Russia and Iran through the territory of Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijan will receive rail and automobile communications with the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic through the territory of Azerbaijan. ‘Armenia. Nikol Pashinyan also stressed that normalization between Yerevan and Ankara could speed up a settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan also supports a fully operational corridor and, as Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev noted, “we should be able to get in a car in Baku and travel comfortably to Nakhichevan and Turkey”. All of these developments indicate that the Trilateral Declaration stems from the strategic interests of all parties concerned.

Azerbaijan has already started reconstruction and reconstruction of all necessary infrastructure in the liberated territories. International companies from different countries such as Turkey, Italy and Israel actively participate in the reconstruction and development of the liberated Azerbaijani regions. Baku aims to build “smart cities” in liberated Karabakh and use renewable energy sources to meet the region’s energy needs. Baku wants to transform the Karabakh region into an economic and tourist hub by rebuilding highways and cities and opening new international airports in the districts of Fizuli, Zangilan and Lachin. To this end, the Khudaferin-Gubadly-Lachin and Khanlyg-Gubadly highways are among the major road infrastructure construction projects in the Karabakh and East Zangezur economic regions in Azerbaijan. These highways will cross the territories of the Zangilan, Gubadly and Lachin districts which have been liberated from the occupation. The highway covers more than 30 localities in the above-mentioned districts; these include the towns of Gubadly and Lachin. Also, the construction of the Ahmadbayli-Fizuli-Shusha highway, and others, is very important, and these road infrastructure projects will play an important role in the socio-economic development of the liberated territories.

Azerbaijan is also continuing the reconstruction of the Barda-Agdam and Horadiz-Agband lines, as well as the construction of the new Fizuli-Shusha railway lines. It should be noted that the length of the Fizuli-Shusha electrified railway line is 83.4 km. The project involves the design and construction of two new stations, Fizuli and Shusha, as well as around 200 structures. Currently, the topographic studies of the railway are completed and the design of the structures is underway.

It is remarkable that Fizuli International Airport, known as the “Air Gateway to Karabakh”, has already been opened by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on October 26, 2021. Fizuli is the first international airport built in the liberated countries. Karabakh region since the 44 day war. It has the capacity to receive any type of aircraft. The track is 3000 meters long and 60 meters wide. Equipped with state-of-the-art infrastructure, the airport terminal can handle at least 200 passengers per hour. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has assigned the airport a three-letter code consisting of letters of the Latin alphabet: FZL. This allows flights to be operated from Fizuli International Airport in accordance with ICAO and IATA standards. Together, all the international airports in the liberated Karabakh region will be the main catalysts for the growth of the tourism sector, which will promote local economic development.

As can be seen, Azerbaijan has already started the Karabakh fast food restaurant, and through this the country contributes to the process of regional economic integration. The construction of international airports is extremely important to Baku for several reasons. First, airports will boost freight and passenger transport to the Karabakh region. For example, Zangilan Airport will be part of the Zangezur Corridor, so freight transport from mainland Azerbaijan to the Nakhichevan region and from there to Turkey will be more profitable. Second, the tourism potential of the Karabakh region is very high, especially in Kalbajar, Lachin and Shusha. Therefore, airports will support the tourism sector and allow people to get to these cities comfortably and in a short time.

In the end, it should be pointed out that the Armenian and Azerbaijani peoples have suffered enough from the long Karabakh war caused by the Armenian occupation of the internationally recognized Azerbaijani territory. The bloody war is over, and it is time for regional economic reintegration. The European integration started after the Second World War was precisely one of economic projects, particularly in the steel and coal industries, based on mutual respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the countries concerned. This path awaits the Azerbaijani and Armenian people as a Chinese proverb says: “Peace and tranquility are a thousand pieces of gold”.