Groundbreaking ceremony of the ”Southern Gas Corridor” was held in Baku on September the 20th. It was also the 20th anniversary of the ”Contract of the Century”. The event organized in the capital of Azerbaijan hosted number of foreign dignitaries. They have all stressed strategic significance of the ”Southern Corridor” and emphasized its contribution to regional and international cooperation. Moreover, it is about a contribution to the establishment of the general energy security system. Historic significance and benefits this event stands to deliver cannot be underestimated.
Successes of Energy Strategy: Azerbaijan’s Role in Regional Cooperation
Efficiency of Azerbaijan’s energy policy is unquestionable. It is also beyond doubt that it plays crucial role in the areas of regional cooperation and security. Successive realization of enormous projects is positively impacting Baku’s stature in the international politics. In this sense, the groundbreaking ceremony of the ”Southern Gas Corridor” has revealed number of important aspects.
This event held in Baku on 20 September saw participation of number of foreign leaders and representatives of foreign companies. During his speech at the ceremony President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said, ”New international team is being formed in the oil and gas sector” (see: A solemn ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Contract of the Century and lay the foundation of the Southern Gas Corridor was held in Baku / AzerTAc, 20 September 2014).
This is truly a historic remark because as a nation that has relatively recently regained its independence, Azerbaijan plays a principal role in the establishment of an international team involved in a project of global relevance. 20 years ago the signing of the ”Contract of the Century” was secured thanks to great efforts and political will of the national leader Heydar Aliyev. Back then, it was none other than Heydar Aliyev that persuaded every one of the benefits of cooperation between the West and Azerbaijan in the field of energy. That very milestone paved the way for an international team to be assembled around a new great project today.
Yet geopolitical aspect of the issue is of even greater significance. Complex geopolitical processes are unfolding in different parts of the world. Some countries are navigating treacherous waters aiming to preserve own independence.
At such a time not only that Azerbaijan is ensuring its sovereignty but also is taking important actions on the issue of international energy security. In this context, remarks by the European Commission President J.M. Barosso are quite symbolic, ”The corridor once completed, will stretch over 2000 kilometers along the Caucasus, through Turkey, Greece and Albania to connect the Caspian with the heart of the European Union. But this corridor is more than a pipeline. It will be a strategic energy avenue for the XXI century – a true geostrategic project” (see: The Southern Gas Corridor will be a strategic energy avenue for 21st century, Jose Manuel Barroso/ AzerTAc, 22 September 2014).
EU official had succinctly highlighted two important aspects here. First, ”Southern Gas Corridor” will connect the Caspian basin with the heart of Europe in terms of transportation flow. This is Azerbaijan’s comprehensive response against the geopolitical foolishness of the ill-wishers. Second, from the standpoint of overall energy security and geopolitical renewal, significance of this project goes beyond that. It meets the demands of the XXI century.
Experts have been debating about the establishment of the new geopolitical order. This is a painful process that embodies many novelties. Nowadays, energy factor cannot be separated from neither geopolitics nor geo-economics or culture. President of Azerbaijan has a fascinating view on this. During the groundbreaking ceremony he said, ”Issue of energy security is indeed the one of national security for every nation. Today it is simply impossible to separate energy from politics and economy. Together with our partners we are going to unite our efforts in ensuring Europe’s energy security” (see: A solemn ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Contract of the Century and lay the foundation of the Southern Gas Corridor was held in Baku / AzerTAc, 20 September 2014).
International Cooperation in the Caspian: ”Southern Corridor” as First Example
Azerbaijan involvement in shaping the global security system at such a level is a strategically important issue. In the meantime, it is about realization of an unprecedented international cooperation in the Caspian basin. President Ilham Aliyev specifically mentioned this and emphasized the importance of this issue for the entire world.
The point is that until today the Caspian basin was a venue for arms race, imposing of own interests upon others and hampering of cooperation. Azerbaijan is shifting this negative trend. ”Southern Gas Corridor” guarantees cooperation between several countries located in a vast geographic space, stretching from Caucasus to Europe. In this regard, they are now counting not military expenditures but benefits they stand to gain. Every foreign dignitary that spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony mentioned this.
President of Bulgaria R. Plevneliev talked about additional 1 billion CBM of natural gas his country would be getting per year starting in 2019. Georgia’s Prime Minister I. Garibashvili spoke of the importance of Azerbaijan-initiated projects in terms of eradication of poverty and job creation. Prime Minister of Greece Mr. Samaras reiterated that “Southern Gas Corridor” was a priority project for his government. Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources T. Yıldız highlighted the role this project plays in meeting Europe’s demands for gas (see: previous reference).
This is indicative of the fact that the ”Southern Gas Corridor” is a truly historic event for the vast geopolitical space. Its realization launches a new phase in ensuring Europe’s energy security and updates geopolitical power balance. In the meantime, this project could propel other cooperation models in the direction of Asia. Prospects of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan joining the ”Southern Corridor” offer a fascinating aspect. So, can the energy rivalry over the Central Asia gain some new substance?
It is no secret that China has stepped up its presence in this region. Beijing is mainly focused on the area of cooperation that concerns energy. Nevertheless, ”Southern Corridor” is the first example of international cooperation in the Caspian basin, and there are no reasons for objections by any party. This implies that projects initiated by Azerbaijan could be attractive for the Asian countries as well.
Azerbaijan is nearing completion of a significant phase of its energy strategy. It is indeed a remarkable event to host a groundbreaking ceremony for another enormous project while celebrating the 20th anniversary of the ”Contract of the Century”. Thus, the West recognizes Azerbaijan as a center of regional cooperation because all of the attendees clearly acknowledged Europe’s opportunity to satisfy its energy needs through Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey connection. Armenia is the only nation to remain out of bounds.
And official Yerevan is to be blamed for the situation. European politicians participating at the groundbreaking ceremony could visibly sense that. All of them stressed that they gained a partner like Azerbaijan to cooperate in the field of energy encompassing the Caspian Sea and the heart of Europe. J. M. Barosso was particularly on target while addressing the subject. If so, then why is it that Armenia fails to find common ground with such a cooperation-ready country like Azerbaijan?
We believe that the West would have to contemplate on this issue after the ”Southern Gas Corridor” ceremony. The only impediment that looms over the regional cooperation is Armenia’s aggressive policy. It’s about time to put an end to it. Official Yerevan is now trying to justify its alienation from different international events. But these accusations and smear has already become pointless. Sooner or later the world must uphold just position. New project that saw its groundbreaking in Baku will serve as a thrust factor in this process. This truth is irrefutable.