PM at UN Economic Forum in Baku: “geopolitical context” has increased South Caucasus transit, logistics role

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili on Friday delivered his speech at the Economic Forum of the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia. Photo: Gov't Administration/2023 archive, 24 Nov 2023 - 16:00, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili on Friday told the Economic Forum of the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia the “current geopolitical context” had increased the role of the South Caucasus as an “important transit and logistics” hub. 

Speaking at the event running in Baku, Azerbaijan, after the Georgian official was invited as a special guest by the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Garibashvili highlighted the significance of the Middle Corridor - a transportation route network connecting China with Europe through the South Caucasus region.

Garibashvili said the Corridor was becoming an “interesting alternative” to the existing routes connecting Europe and Asia considering the growing importance of diversification and expansion of trade on the East-West route.

The Middle Corridor on the Eurasian continent is positioned as the fastest, most economical and reliable channel for the delivery of cargo and hydrocarbon resources. Therefore, together with our Azerbaijani and Kazakh colleagues, we are actively working to remove the obstacles in this Corridor and focus on improving infrastructure, increasing capacity, simplifying procedures and introducing a unified tariff system”, he said.

Garibashvili also said his Government was making “significant” investments in large-scale projects to promote regional trade. 

In recent years, investments have been made in the renovation of the country's highways, railways and airports. Now we are working on the Anaklia deep sea port project, the capacity of which will be 100 million tonnes per year”, he noted in reference to the initiative for the facility on Georgia’s Black Sea coast.

We are also working together on the Black Sea submarine electricity cable project, which was signed last year in Bucharest by the leaders of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Hungary and Romania. We think that this project will be very interesting not only for our region, but also for Europe”, he pointed out in reference to the project designed to connect electricity grids of the South Caucasus and European Union states.

The PM noted the cargo turnover of the Georgian Railways had increased by 48 percent during the last five years, adding after the completion of the modernisation project the capacity would double to 48 million tonnes per year by the end of 2024. 

We are actively working with Azerbaijan on the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway line, which will be completed in 2024. The Government is also making a substantial capital investment in the [domestic] East-West Highway project. We are also working on the development of a new airport that has the potential to become a regional transit aviation hub”, he said.

Garibashvili also highlighted Georgia’s “very interesting” and “strategic” location, its “attractive” business environment and “important” role in East-West connectivity. He said the country had been a “reliable partner” for energy resource transit “for many years” and its overall “positive business and institutional outlook” was consistent with the common goal of ensuring “stability and prosperity throughout the region”.

[Georgia] plays an important role in the supply chain and ensures the continuous and safe transit of crude oil and natural gas through the South Caucasus. We are interested in deepening even closer relations with the Central Asian region by fully using the existing potential”, the PM told the event.

Garibashvili also noted the “centuries-old” neighbourly relations between Georgia and Azerbaijan and called the latter a “valuable neighbour” and “strategic partner”, while also noting ties between the two countries were at the “highest level”.