Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Revival of "Silk Road" Underway

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Revival of "Silk Road" Underway

Article excerpt

Revival of "Silk Road" Underway

Kyrgyzstan has declared that it strongly favors the proposal to develop a viable Eurasian transportation corridor stretching from Asia to Europe. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev made an official visit to the exSoviet Republic of Georgia and put his signature on an agreement of political and economic cooperation between the two countries, which includes transit of goods through Kyrgyzstan. "Kyrgyzstan was a little late, but it is going to actively join the implementation of Eurasian projects," said Akayev at a press conference held in Tbilisi.

A number of ambitious projects have been launched, each of which is focused on establishing networks of effective transportation in countries of the Black Sea and Central Asia. The goal in each case is their integration into the all-European transportation system. Projects include the BISEK-Black Sea Economic Project and TRACECA-Eurasian Transportation Corridor. Central Asian republics have started creating a Caspian Sea-Azerbaijan-Georgia-Black Sea-Europe "Eurasian bridge." Georgia, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan concluded last year a special agreement on cooperation in railway transit of goods. Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Bulgaria have expressed their wish to join this agreement as well. Ferry transport connecting Georgia with Bulgaria, Romania, the Ukraine and Russia on the Black Sea is now successfully operating and developing.

That's why the notion of the revival of the Great Silk Road (Jibek Jolu in the Kyrgyz language) has been the focus of intense negotiations between Kyrgyzstan and Georgia. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze was pleased that his pet project, which many world observers call "the core of Shevardnadze's political and economic program," was backed up by his Kyrgyz counterpart. In the Georgian president's opinion, integration will materialize primarily on the basis of reliable and effective systems of transportation for both goods and raw material. The volume of transported goods on the TRACECA mute already has increased noticeably. Thus, Uzbek cotton and Kazakh oil from the Tengiz oil field now are traveling via this route. If the project is fully realized, the Caucasus may become a desirable -- rather than a dreaded -- link between Europe and Asia. Turkey and Azerbaijan are obviously gravitating toward this notion.

The transportation and communications capacity of the Europe-Caucasus-Asia corridor will, in turn, help to make the idea of a North-South transportation route more realistic. Traffic may soon cross the territory of Transcaucasia and connect northern and central Russia with Turkey, Iran and other countries of the Near East and Greece.

Russia, Chechnya Sign Pipeline Pact

Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, have signed a "memorandum" that includes an agreement on the transit of Azerbaijani oil, ITAR-TASS reported on June 13.

The agreement envisages that the "early oil" from Azerbaijan's offshore fields will be exported to the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk via a pipeline transitting Russia. The 153-kilometer stretch of the pipeline that transits Chechnya was badly damaged during the war.

Armenia, Iran Hold Talks

Armenian Foreign Minister Aleksandr Arzumanyan held talks June 12 with outgoing Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati. Arzumanyan welcomed Iran's "key role" in resolving regional crises, and added that Armenia gives "special priority to its relations with Islamic Iran." Arzumanyan also called for multilateral cooperation with other countries in the region, "particularly with Turkmenistan, Georgia, and Greece." Velayati, for his part, said Tehran is interested in an "honorable and just" peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Iran-Kyrgyzstan Trade Rises

Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev met with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati on June 11 and said he is pleased with his country's relations with Iran. …

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