The United Nations Special Program for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) recently held its 25th-anniversary meeting, not in Central Asia but in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku.
This program, which has generally passed under the radar for most of its life, was founded in 1998 for the purpose of enhancing cooperation among the Central Asian countries and facilitating their integration into the global economy.
Beyond the five Central Asia countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) plus Azerbaijan, it also includes Afghanistan.
Up to now, the most important format for cementing regional cooperation among the countries of the Caspian region has been the Organization of Turkic States (OTS). The meeting in Baku signifies their intention to expand regional cooperation through SPECA.
To that end, official Baku organized a transport forum, a meeting of the working group on trade, and a number of other meetings during the week highlighted by the Summit of Heads of State of the SPECA countries was held on November 24.
The meeting in Baku thus shed light on Azerbaijan’s key role in promoting Central Asia connectivity. Moreover, it confirmed a strategic alignment of the participants – driven in the first instance by Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan – that highlights the energy, transport, and communication sectors.
In this context, Azerbaijan set out its vision of the country as a pivotal Eurasian transport and logistics nexus.
Baku has been leveraging its geographic centrality to promote broader Eurasian economic cooperation and regional integration. With an emphasis on the East-West “Middle Corridor” projects, such a vision goes beyond implementing programs for logistical infrastructure to embrace a fundamental recalibration of regional economic corridors.
Source : Asiatimes