Silk Road: How Will Armenia Benefit?

    • Interview - 17 May 2017, 22:55
Interview with Ashot Yeghiazaryan, economist 

Mr. Yeghiazaryan, China is discussing the Silk road projects, Georgia starts economic cooperation with China. What is going on and where is Armenia?

In fact, China started implementing the Silk Road project a few years ago. It is the road between China and Europe because this country mainly connects with the world by the sea. In the recent years China was expanding in Central Asia actively, boldly and extensively.

For China they are vital projects because they can thereby create an alternative path and increase their area of influence, not only get the gas and oil from this area but also develop its relatively less developed Western regions. This road to Europe envisages three directions. The first direction remains as it was. It runs across Russia. However, the central and southern directions to Europe are an alternative to Russia, and this alternative certainly strengthens China. And the two alternatives run across the South Caucasus. One direction is the Caspian-Azerbaijan-Georgia in the Black Sea area and the other runs Iran-Black Sea, the Georgian part. This road will pass across the Black Sea ports of Georgia.

In this sense, it should be noted that not only China is interested in gaining access Europe via the Black Sea port cities. Iran is also a stakeholder, and it is not accidental that Iran also proposes a new transportation corridor connecting the Persian Gulf and the Black Sea. Europe is also a stakeholder which gets a road to Iran and China. In this general context, it is not accidental that a new port is being created in Anaklia, Georgia on American investments. It should be noted that the tender for the construction of the port has not been awarded to China, it will be built jointly by the Americans and Georgians. It means that all cargo will be transported via a port controlled by the American capital. This is a very interesting moment. The total capacity of this port will be 100 million tons. It requires a huge flow of cargo. It will be implemented stage by stage during 10 years but shipments will start already in 2018.

What are the chances that Armenia will benefit from these projects?

In this sense, the only chance, the way out that Armenia will also be involved in cargo shipments is its involvement in the Persian Gulf-Black Sea transportation corridor proposed by Iran. Look how many players there are: China, Iran, Europe, the United States. In other words, the region has a big importance for transportation, and this may have a big importance for the development of the countries in this region.

Will Armenia be able to participate in these projects considering that it has joined the Eurasian Economic Union?

Limitations are obvious, the issue of resources due to these limitations is also obvious. There are problems for Armenia but the implementation of these projects means that the geopolitical and economic arrangements in the region will change. And the sooner Armenia becomes an active participant in these projects, the more it will benefit. However, since Armenia is not independent in its foreign policy and foreign trade, this is obviously negative.

How can Armenia benefit from these projects, what will they bring to the country?

The Persian Gulf-Black Sea transportation corridor means that Armenia could join the pan-European transportation channels and become part of the transportation infrastructure. This is natural for Armenia, considering the geographical position of Armenia, its blockade in the east and in the west. This is the only chance for Armenia to connect with the world. Once there is access to the sea via two neighbors, Georgia and Iran, the blockade will be over. The problem is that this transportation channel bypasses both Turkey and Russia, and there are problems with the interests of Russia and Turkey. However, this objectively stems from the interests of Armenia, this is the natural path for Armenia, the alternative and the lifting of the blockade. There is no other option.

This is spoken and written but there is no visible interest in the Armenian government. There have been expert meetings in Tehran, Sophia but we cannot see their coverage, advantages.