Baku, 8 September 1998 (RFE/RL) - A one-day international conference on establishing an overland transportation corridor through Central Asia and the Caucasus has ended in Baku with the signing of a general multilateral agreement and a statement.
Delegations from 33 countries and 12 international organizations attended today's event which was officially dubbed "The Conference on the Restoration of the Historic Silk Route." Participants delivered reports on work in progress in their respective countries to upgrade or create new road, rail and shipping links. The common aim is to make the proposed Eurasian corridor an efficient transit alternative to trans-oceanic shipping or the current Russian trans-Siberian rail route.
The multi-lateral agreement which was signed today provides for the equalization of trade tariffs throughout the region and for the creation of an intergovernmental commission as well as a permanent secretariat based in Baku to oversee the implementation of the new Eurasian route.
The presidents of Bulgaria, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan attended the event. Other countries including Russia were represented by lower-level delegations.
Russia did not sign today's agreements as it does not lie on the proposed new Silk Road. Russia's representative to the conference, deputy transport minister Yevgeny Kazantsev said Moscow does not believe the Caucasus and Central Asia can offer a viable alternative to the trans-Siberian route. But other participants at today's conference made it clear they strongly back a revived Silk Route as an important potential alternative to the Russian corridor.