By Asim Suleymanov
Azerbaijan is closely watching the situation in Georgia, where on June 20 mass protests have broken out in the Georgian capital due to the fact that during the General Assembly session of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy, the Russian delegate, State Duma member Sergei Gavrilov sat in the chair of Georgian parliament.
Azerbaijan is a partner of Georgia in global international energy and transport projects. That’s why all changes in the situation in Georgia directly affect Azerbaijan. This also applies to the aggravation of Georgian-Russian relations.
Not so long ago, Russia intended to join the use of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway (BTK). After connecting the Abkhazian section to BTK and gaining access to Russian goods, the cargo base would have increased many times. With this turn of events, Azerbaijan would also have the opportunity to expand both imports and exports of necessary products. Up to 6.5 million tons could be transported from Azerbaijan to Turkey.
But now Georgia can block the a memorandum on the development of railway transportation in the framework of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars, which was signed in Ankara by the heads of the railway companies of Russia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan. This will adversely affect the workload of the entire transport corridor. Of course, Azerbaijan will continue to develop transport cooperation with Russia in other areas. But, in any case, signed by Azerbaijan and Russian Railways a memorandum on the development of Eurasian international transport corridors will act ensuring optimal conditions for transit and export-import traffic.
If the escalation in relations between the two countries continues and Russia imposes a ban on Georgian exports (agricultural products, wine and mineral water), then Georgia can completely close the transit of Russian goods through its territory, as well as ports. Naturally, it will have a negative impact on Azerbaijani economy. Georgia is likely to gain huge financial losses from temporary restrictive measures. The impoverishment of the Georgian economy may also affect its trade with Azerbaijan.
It is worth noting that Russia is still leading in terms of remittances to Georgia. At the end of 2018 the largest trading partners of Georgia were Turkey, Russia and Azerbaijan. In general, in 2018 the Azerbaijani turnover with these countries is amounted to $4.2 billion, that is about 33.4% of the total trade turnover.
The aggravation of relations with Russia will naturally affect the Georgian tourism industry. Last year, Georgia was visited by two million Russians. Naturally, in the conditions of the suspension of flights from Georgia, many tourists will look for alternative tourist destinations. Azerbaijan and Armenia could become alternative destinations in the Caucasus for Russian tourists.
Even in Armenia, it is still more recognized that mainly in summer tourists go overseas. In the current situation, tourists will be more interested in Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea. There the stream of Russian tourists is growing every year. Tourists are attracted by the developed infrastructure, hospitality and the complete absence of Russophobia.
Azerbaijan promotes multiculturalism. It a good reputation as a peacemaker. When political passions subside in Georgia, Ilham Aliyev will try to reconcile Russia and Georgia, as he once took part in reconciliation between Russia and Turkey. And you see how Russian-Turkish relations are rapidly developing.
Azerbaijan stands for stability in the region and will undoubtedly make every effort to improve relations between its neighbors. Its actions can be an example how to pursue an independent policy and at the same time defend one’s own interests.