The Memorandum of Understanding on Joint Encouragement of the Establishment of the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ was signed between China and Azerbaijan in Beijing this week in the presence of the heads of state, Xi Jinping and Ilham Aliyev. The head of China expressed the view that China and Azerbaijan need to form large-scale projects in such areas as energy, communications and infrastructure. The former US Assistant Secretary for the South Caucasus, former US ambassador to Azerbaijan, Matthew Bryza, said in an interview to Vestnik Kavkaza that Azerbaijan could benefit significantly by participating in the Silk Road project by realizing its potential as a key hub and corridor of East-West transit.
However, Ilham Aliyev’s visit to China was notable not only for its major economic component, but also its humanitarian one. Confirming their intention to enhance cooperation in the spheres of culture and education, the Renmin University of China held a ceremony of awarding a diploma ‘Professor Emeritus of History’ to the President of Azerbaijan. The university, specializing in humanitarian, social and natural sciences, is considered to be a flagship of higher education institutions in China.
“China and Azerbaijan are countries with ancient histories and vibrant civilizations. Azerbaijan is located in the heart of Eurasia, at the crossroads of the Eastern and Western cultures and it is a place of crossing of different peoples, religions and cultures. The centuries-old ties between our peoples have two thousand years of history, they originate from the ancient ‘Silk Road’. Ancient Baku has become famous in the world as the Pearl of the ‘Silk Road’. Chinese silk was transported to Azerbaijan and unique Azerbaijani carpets and rock salt to China,” the rector of the University Liu Wei said.
The rector described the awarding of the diploma ‘Professor Emeritus of History’ of Renmin University to Ilham Aliyev as clear evidence of the President of Azerbaijan’s desire to deepen bilateral relations and develop further cooperation in the field of higher education.
Ilham Aliyev, in his turn, said that China and Azerbaijan support each other in international organizations, Azerbaijan has became a dialogue partner of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization with the support of China in this year. Azerbaijan supports the ‘One China principle’, and China, in its turn, supports Baku in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on the basis of territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and the resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council.
By joining the Chinese initiative, Azerbaijan has became a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Many Chinese companies are actively working in Azerbaijan. “During the visit I visited the car plant in the city of Xi’an, which exports cars to Azerbaijan and got acquainted with Huawei’s Exhibition Center, which is actively working in Azerbaijan. We want to see in Azerbaijan more Chinese companies operating in various sectors, such as infrastructure and construction. Of course we want to see Chinese companies as investors, because a favorable investment climate has been created in Azerbaijan,” Ilham Aliyev said.
Azerbaijan’s geographical position turns the country into a center of transit of goods from Europe to Asia and from Asia to Europe. The first container train arrived in Azerbaijan from China across the Caspian Sea in August this year. Baku is investing in the modernization of railways, construction of the largest port in the Caspian region and rail communication between Azerbaijan and Europe, which should begin to operate next year. The construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway will link Asia and Europe and establish a missing rail link for the creation of the historic Silk Road. This transport route will be the shortest way to deliver goods from China to Europe and from Europe to China. “Countries may have different foreign policy priorities and different views on the events in the world. This is natural. However, we can create better conditions for mutual understanding through economic cooperation and greater regional cooperation. Our position is based on it and the views of China and Azerbaijan coincide on many issues,” Ilham Aliyev said.