Azerbaijan-Uzbekistan Rapprochement and the Search for Cooperation in the Caspian

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It is seen that Caspian Sea-based projects are more important than ever after the Russia-Ukraine War that started on February 24, 2022. This has increased the importance of the Middle Corridor, which is the joint project of the Turkish World, and accordingly the Southern Gas Corridor.

It can be stated that there are two reasons for this situation. The first one is the blockage of the Northern Corridor after the war. Therefore, the Central Corridor came to the fore in the context of energy and transit transportation. The Central Corridor has come to the fore as the lowest-cost, shortest and most stable route for China, the world’s manufacturing workshop, and the Central Asian states, which are home to rich energy resources, to open up to Europe; in other words, to maintain the East-West interaction. In particular, the relative stability in the South Caucasus following the Second Karabakh War has played a decisive role in bringing the China-Central Asia-Caspian Sea-South Caucasus-Europe connection to the fore.

As a matter of fact, it is known that the European Union (EU), which wants to overcome the energy crisis following the Russia-Ukraine War, turned to the search for alternative suppliers and signed an agreement with Azerbaijan in July 2022.  However, it is obvious that the transportation of Azerbaijani gas through the Southern Gas Corridor will not be sufficient to meet the energy needs of EU countries. Therefore, on the one hand, EU countries are demanding an increase in the volume of natural gas transported through the Southern Gas Corridor; on the other hand, the Baku government not only wants to increase its own exports, but also wants to be an intermediary for countries such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to export energy to Europe through the Caucasus. Moreover, as mentioned above, the issue is not limited to energy but also has a logistical dimension. Undoubtedly, this means that Azerbaijan’s geostrategic and geoeconomic importance will further increase.

In this context, it can be said that the Baku administration focuses on Caspian-centered cooperation processes and pays attention to developing win-win relations with Central Asian states based on mutual respect and common interest. As a matter of fact, the first outcome of this process was the meeting of Magzum Mirzagaliyev, Chairman of Kazakhstan’s KazMunayGas, and Rovshan Najaf, Chairman of Azerbaijan’s energy giant SOCAR, in Baku on August 18, 2022 to discuss Caspian-based infrastructure projects, and the subsequent mutual visits of President of Kazakhstan Mr. Kassym Jömert Tokayev and President of Azerbaijan Mr. Ilham Aliyev accelerated the efforts in this direction.

At this point, it is seen that similar efforts are being made on the Baku-Tashkent line. Because on May 18, 2023, a delegation from Uzbekistan-based Uzbekneftegas met with the Azerbaijani delegation headed by SOCAR President Najaf in Baku. During this meeting, the parties discussed joint ventures. This can be interpreted as an extremely important development as it points to the possibility of including Uzbekistan as well as Kazakhstan in Caspian-based energy projects. This is because issues related to cooperation opportunities, including the joint development of natural gas fields in Azerbaijan with Uzbekistan, were discussed and it was decided to develop partnerships between the parties.[1]

As expected, Uzbek gas is expected to be transported to Azerbaijan via Kazakhstan. This is because Uzbekistan is not among the littoral states of the Caspian Sea. Therefore, the search for cooperation on the Baku-Tashkent line cannot be read independently from the processes on the Baku-Astana line.

On the other hand, the search for cooperation between Baku and Tashkent is not limited to energy. According to reports in the Uzbek press on May 19, 2023, the Tashkent administration is planning to build an ultramodern cargo terminal at the Baku Port. This indicates that one dimension of the relations between the parties consists of developing relations in the context of logistics. In this framework, Uzbekistan is expected to develop its annual exports in line with its target of 1.5 million tons, and the Kazakhstan-Caspian Sea-Azerbaijan connection is expected to play a critical role in this development.[2] This is undoubtedly a harbinger of an increase in the capacity and potential of the Middle Corridor.

In addition, it is possible that Turkmen gas will also be included in Caspian-based projects. In particular, the settlement of the “Serdar and Kepez” oil field dispute between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan in January 2021, which had been in dispute for many years, and the renaming of the field in question as “Friendship” strengthened the cooperation opportunities on the Baku-Ashkhabad line. In this framework, it is possible to state that the process initiated by Azerbaijan with Kazakhstan and continued with Uzbekistan in parallel with the increasing energy needs of EU countries is pregnant with new developments, including Turkmenistan.

As a result, the Russia-Ukraine war has increased the importance of Caspian-based projects both in terms of transit transportation and energy crisis. As a reflection of this, the EU signed an agreement with Azerbaijan. However, in order to meet the needs of the union states, other countries in the Caspian region should also be involved in these initiatives. Recent developments in the export of Uzbek gas and logistics through Azerbaijan show that there is a strong will in this direction. Therefore, it can be predicted that developments involving Turkmenistan will take place in the future.

[1] “SOCAR и Узбекнефтегаз обсудили создание совместного предприятия”,,, (Date of Accession: 19.05.2023).

[2] “Узбекистан построит грузовой терминал в порту Баку”, UPL 24,, (Date of Accession: 19.05.2023).

Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN
Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN, 2014 yılında Gazi Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2017 yılında Giresun Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda sunduğu ‘’Uluslararası Güç İlişkileri Bağlamında İkinci Dünya Savaşı Sonrası Hegemonik Mücadelelerin İncelenmesi’’ başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Doktora derecesini ise 2021 yılında Trakya Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı‘nda hazırladığı “İmparatorluk Düşüncesinin İran Dış Politikasına Yansımaları ve Milliyetçilik” başlıklı teziyle alan Başaran’ın başlıca çalışma alanları Uluslararası ilişkiler kuramları, Amerikan dış politikası, İran araştırmaları ve Afganistan çalışmalarıdır. Başaran iyi derecede İngilizce ve temel düzeyde Farsça bilmektedir.