General historical background on "East-West Transport Corridor"

TRASECA (Trans-Europe-Caucasus-Asia), an EU supported program envisages rebirth of the Great Silk Road after hundreds of years and a system regrouping of transport-communication networks of European, Caucasian and Asian states.

A Great Silk Road is a common historical name of the trade routes stretching from China to the Northern Africa and Spain which functioned from the II century b. c. until XVI century A. D. An international commission under auspices of the UNESCO started to study perspectives and opportunities of implementation of the idea of restoration of the Great Silk Road in 1980 yet, which begins from Sinan, a Chinese city on the coast of the Eastern Chinese Sea. The issues of development and directions of the project were discussed at the forums and seminars held in Moscow (1989), Samarkand (1990), Urganch (1991) and Donetsk (1992).

In May 1993, an international conference was held in Brussels with the participation of the delegations from the five Central Asian and three Caucasian states and a project of TRASECA was proposed here by the European Union. A program of technical support for the project was agreed in that conference. The technical support program endorses the issues of development of the transport corridor stretching from Europe to the Black Sea, then to the Central Asia through the South Caucasus and Caspian Sea.

The favorable geographic position of the Republic of Azerbaijan and being one of the important points for this transport corridor and its foreign policy supporting the integration into the world community contributed to the implementation of the TRASECA project into life.

The idea of the implementation of the TRASECA project culminated on September 8-9, 1998, in Baku, the capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

"The international conference dedicated to the restoration of the historical Silk Way" was held on this date. Representatives from the 32 states and 13 international organizations signed an important document, "Major multilateral agreement on international transport for development of European-Caucasian-Asian transport corridor" reflecting the technical and economic issues of the implementation of the European-Caucasian-Asian transport corridor. President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev rendered priceless services for the signature of this document.

President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev held a meeting connected with the results of the conference dedicated to the restoration of the GSK 2 days after its completion. It was noted at the meeting attended by the high authorities of the government that taking into account rise of the importance of the Eurasian transport corridor in the 21st century, taking serious preparatory measures in this sphere, purchase of new transport equipments and establishment of new service spheres were of great importance.

‎Eurasian transport corridor, intensive functioning of the Transcaucasian corridor was also of great importance for the socio-economic life of Azerbaijan and solution of its importance.

It was manifested with incomes from cargo carriages, establishment of a long-term reliable market for sea, railroad and pipeline transports, restoration of the infrastructures connected with the cargo carriages, openings of new jobs, solution of the issues of the economic security of Azerbaijan and development of Baku as the biggest port situated on the centre of this arterial way and coast of the Caspian Sea.

It is not accidental that the head-quarters of the permanent secretariat of the TRASECA intergovernmental commission reside in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, one of the main points of the GSK. The office of the permanent secretariat of the TRASECA intergovernmental commission started to function in Baku on February 21, 2001. The new office, serving the organization of the coordination of the works conducted in the framework of the TRASECA program is to regulate the carriage and movement of the international cargoes, resolve the issues connected with the legislative and finance-economic environment in the states parties to the Major Agreement.

In April 1999, after wrapping up the ceremonies on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the NATO, a discussion of draft dedicated to the restoration of the Great Silk Road was held in the US Congress. The heads of state and foreign ministers of the Caucasian and Central Asian and Caucasian countries attended the discussions. The discussions were held at the initiative of Sam Brownback, US congressman.

Such an initiative from the US Congress attested the US intention to join the restoration of the Great Silk Road.

Next step in the implementation of the TRASECA project was made in meeting held in New York connected with the regional cooperation of the countries situated on the Silk Road on September 8, 2000.

The summit was organized by the East-West Space Sciences Centre and East-West Institute of the US Maryland University. The project was to serve to establish material and moral dialogue between the East and West. Republic of Azerbaijan took a number of serious steps for completion of this mission. Setting into function successfully the oil pipelines of Baku-Novorossiysk and Baku-Supsa could be considered valuable contributions of the Republic of Azerbaijan for the restoration of the Silk Road.

Active participation of Azerbaijan in the realization of the Great Silk Road is one of the successful achievements of the country gained in the years of independence. This regional transport corridor already competes with the other regional transport corridors in profitable and secure passage of the cargoes among the European-Caucasian-Asian countries and played a serious role in the development of the economy of the country and surface transport infrastructures.

‎Next discussions in order of strengthening of the contacts between East and West, function of the GSK was made in the conference "East-West energy transport corridor is reality" held Washington on February 25, 2003. The international conference was organized at joint initiative by the US-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce, US-Georgian Business Council and US-Turkish Council. The major issue discussed in the conference was the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan main oil pipeline and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline which were to deliver the Caspian energy resources to the world market.

It is to note that the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline started on September 18, 2002 and on October 16, 2004, the Azerbaijani and Georgian parts of the pipeline were connected. On the same day the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline started as well. BTC was officially opened on July 13, 2006 and is capable to deliver one million barrel oil a day.

Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline started to pump in the beginning of 2007. Thus, delivery of the Azerbaijani gas to Europe was assured and the country entered to the world economy as a gas exporter. At the present, Baku-Novorossiysk, Baku-Supsa and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipelines together with the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline create the South Caucasus Pipelines System (SCPS), which deliver the Caspian energy resources to the world market. SCPS is the main artery of the whole East-West transport corridor. Implementation of these projects is estimated a substantial support to the world integration tendencies. The projects are also characterized as a major support for the TRASECA project supported by the EU, acceleration of the restoration of the Great Silk Road.

It is to note that the Azerbaijani gas started to be exported to Italy as a result of the connections of Turkey and Italy gas systems at the end of 2007. On the other hand, NABUCCO gas pipeline, planned to provide delivery of the Caspian energy resources to the Central European markets, which is to be constructed by 2010, will become the biggest project connecting the East and West. According to this project, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum transport system, starting to function from the early 2007, will be connected with the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline which is to be constructed and this system in its turn, will integrate into the relevant infrastructures of the EU countries via the Turkish gas infrastructure.

The Republic of Azerbaijan took another step to ensure overall development of the East-West transport corridor and other kind of transport in the end of 2006. This is a project of the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Gars railroad. The railroad of 127 km length will connect Turkey with the Caucasian main railroad. Gars-Akhalkalaky route will in fact the shortest railroad connecting the South Caucasus and Europe. These big projects stretched from Asia to Europe originate from Azerbaijan.

Successful results of the steps taken for the development of the European-Caucasian-Asian transport have resulted in development of alternative projects. The North-South transport corridor could be an ideal example. This project was out in forward by India, Pakistan, Oman, Iran and Russia.

Functioning of this project envisages delivery of cargoes from India to Bandar-Abbas port of Iran and their passage to Russia and other countries via Iran and Azerbaijan by means of railroad.

Actively taking part in this project, Azerbaijan considers it useful from the point of view of protection of national interests and development of other kinds of transport.

It is to note that Azerbaijan has started to implement big investment projects for development of its internal transport infrastructures since 2004. It is enough to mention the fact that $ 2 billion have been assigned for enlargement and reconstruction of road-transport infrastructures.

Historical background was updated on May 21, 2008.