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On March 4, 2022, Caspian Week - as Horasis' strategic partner - actively participated in Horasis USA Meeting – Shaping America's Role in a Post-Pandemic World. This virtual event was co-chaired by Murat Seitnepesov, Chairman of the Caspian Week Forum.

The Greater Caspian Region is one of the world's foremost transport and trade hubs. 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 might the US unlock the region's potential?

Find more on our session:

America and the Greater Caspian Region: Launching A New Partnership

During the session, panelists explored new modes of partnership between the USA and the Greater Caspian Region*.

Contingent considerations were the focus of the first part. As per Matthew Bryza (Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council; Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, USA), under the current situation in Russia, the US should focus even more on connecting Central Asia with the South Caucasus directly and onward to Europe. Caspian's natural resources should be connected even more with European markets via Turkey like the Azeri pipeline showed. This region is in fact extremely rich in natural resources, starting from natural gas, oil, and mineral resources. Murat Seitnepesov went one step further and focused on export choices. Exporters and producers now favor pipelines, in particular Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, and railway infrastructures. Companies are rerouting exports from Russian destinations towards Black Sea by Azerbaijan and Georgia. And it was not just the flow of goods that needed to be rerouted, but also the financing one, as Bart Turtelboom (Chairman, Delphos International Limited, USA) pointed out. Caspian countries have been relying heavily on Russian banks, which can no longer support the trade flows. The immediate priority to deal with is the stability of the global supply chain, exacerbated by the global financial supply issues due to sanctions. The world is still resource hungry and the full functioning of export corridors from the GCC is paramount to growth. This had been a concern of the US policy in the region, which Bryza assessed as very effective in bringing new export lines and energy security for Western markets, but lamented its lack of focus with South-East Asia. Westwards, the US supported five pipelines, among them the CPC pipeline from Kazakhstan. Three other pipelines bypassed or didn't include Russia – Baku-Supsa, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum. Eastwards, Washington tried various projects that were dubbed "The New Silk Road", starting from 2002, but it was probably the Chinese RBI that had the upper hand, focusing on FSU at the expense of Russia. Now the US is supporting the development of an East-West corridor that began with hydrocarbons and now include telecommunications and surface transport. It also comprised a military corridor that connected the US and its NATO into Afghanistan. This new path has an evocative name – "Lapis Lazuli Path" – goes from Afghanistan to Georgia. Sham Bathija (Former Minister and Advisor to the President of Afghanistan) was not optimistic on the development of Afghanistan but had a more supportive view of this corridor and other initiatives taken during Karzai's time. Economic problems are slowly being solved (like access to Afghan reserves at the IMF) and the initiatives are still in place. He was more focused on regional trades, as Afghanistan could benefit from integration into the Greater Caspian Region. In this regards, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline project, would help to connect the country. This project would benefit not only Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India; it may be a model for many others as a way to attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in developing regions. This wish resonated very well with Gligor Tashkovich (Former Minister for Foreign Investment, North Macedonia) who had previously attracted more than 1.5 bln dollars to North Macedonia. It was the result of not just lobbying internationally, but also a deep reform of the legal and economic framework of the country. For instance, the time for registration of a business moved from 42 days to 4 hours. An impressive result that gave him the credit to replicate his success in Uzbekistan, where he is working on FDI.

Beside contingent issues, Seitnepesov and Turtelboom were keen to remark that the medium-term priority is the economic transformation agenda of the region. Financial security relied for too long on a single external ally, now sanctioned, so a diversification is needed. These countries should stand on their own feet. And Uzbekistan seems very well poised to make tremendous progress in this regard. Over the next five years they both expected the country to improve its political stability and policy agenda.

* 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, a transport and trading route between the East and the West, since the time of the ancient Silk Road.

Best regards,
Caspian Week Team