HORASIS: the Global Visions Community had its annual Global Meeting

On May 20, 2022, HORASIS: the Global Visions Community had its annual Global Meeting, co-chaired by Murat Seitnepesov, President of Caspian Week Forum. The event was held as virtual meeting.

Murat moderated the session named "Greater Caspian Region: Geopolitics, Trade and a Shared Future".

The Greater Caspian Region is one of the world's foremost transport and trade hubs. Further cooperation between neighboring states will advance the region's development and boost trade between and beyond the Caspian Sea. What are the Region's most pressing needs? And how to unlock the region's potential?

Find more on this session:

The GCR is home to one of the largest reserves of natural gas on earth and it has become a key area to focus for European countries. The main issue remains how to enable that export and the logistical and trade limitations that hinder the development of the GCE. This is what Turkmenistan has experienced directly, shun away from European countries despite its massive gas resources, because of its lack of export routes. While many routes pass thorough Turkey – now the main export hub for Oil and Gas to Europe, as Russian ones are off the table – Turkmenistan remains cut out of this bonanza. Matthew Bryza (Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council; Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, USA) offered one solution could in the form of a virtual pipeline for liquefied and compressed gas via containers; that would allow Turkmenistan to export directly to Europe. Sham Bathija (Former Minister and Advisor to the President of Afghanistan) brought up an alternative, more traditional, physical gas pipeline for Turkmenistan's exports: the Afghanistan – Pakistan – India pipeline. The project would have a tremendous impact not only on Turkmenistan as an export country, but also for the other ones involved, Afghanistan as well.

The development of Afghanistan would be in fact very useful to stabilize the region and promote trades, as the country was historically a key trading hub into the GCR. However, the situation has deteriorated dramatically since the second advent of the Taliban. So, there are now many roadblocks to this project and the renaissance of Afghanistan as a trade hub: security, no formal political recognition of the Taliban government, human rights virtually suspended, blocked foreign reserves at the IMF and in USA… But there is some hope as well, as India is supporting more and more Pakistan and Afghanistan (with food and vaccines, for instance) despite political tensions. This has given support to moderate groups, which in Pakistan ousted lawfully the Islamist government and in Afghanistan fosters discussions among resistance groups. A first concrete result could be this pipeline, as this would force countries to deepen cooperation in the GCR, something Stiphan Beher (Former Adviser to President of Kyrgyzstan) agreed to. Bryza also concurred and added that now that the situation in Afghanistan is out of US's control, the Biden administration may turn to Iran as a transit hub, something all participants cheered for.

Closer international cooperation can indeed do a lot for the development of the GCR, as exemplified by the recently signed Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan principal agreement for the joint development of an oil and gas field in the Caspian Sea. As per Bryza, the US administration has always welcome closer inter-Caspian cooperation and welcome the news. It has also supported the emergence of a regional leader to pull the development of the GCR, but it has always opposed China in that capacity hence its Belt and Road Initiative. Kyrgyzstan, however, has managed to reap the benefit of its role as East-West hub, without subjugating itself to external foreign policies. As per Beher, this helped its development on many fronts, although he had to admit that water supplies was clearly not one of them. There are currently many local conflicts regarding water supply, and the main task is to mediate them. The key to stability in the area would be to renegotiate water supply agreements. Again an argument for closer international cooperation within the GCR.

* The Greater Caspian Region includes 16 countries surrounding the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea, South Caucasus, and Central Asia up to Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. It has a surface of 5 million square kilometres and a population of 500 million people.

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Greater Caspian Association

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Caspian Week Team