RUS
Search
Publications

Caspian forums in Astrakhan: an instrument for inter-state political and economic cooperation

photo: gov.astrobl.ru
17 November 2023

The Astrakhan Region in the current international dynamics is turning into an extremely important geopolitical center of Russia on the Caspian Sea. In 2023, it hosted two important international forums dedicated to the development of cultural-humanitarian and trade-economic international connections in the Caspian Region.

In September, the 8th Caspian Media Forum took place in Astrakhan, and its main topic was «Public Diplomacy and Social Media as a Factor of Rapprochement of Nations». In October, the city hosted an international forum «North-South ITC: the New Concept. Quick Access to the Premium Markets of the East, Asia, Africa and India».

On the high level

The Astrakhan Regional Government sponsored the 8th Caspian Media Forum supported by the RF Presidential Executive Office, the RF Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the RF Ministry for Digital Technology, Communication and Mass Media. Over 400 journalists and government representatives from the Caspian countries Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan, as well as from Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, India and some other countries took part in the event.

Igor Babushkin, the Governor of the Astrakhan Region, was setting the tone across all the two days of the Forum. The meeting of the official delegations with participation of the Governor and Andrey Rudenko, the Deputy RF Minister of Foreign Affairs, took place on Day 1.

Igor Babushkin characterized the participation of so many foreign guests in the Forum as an evidence of the common intent to enhance interaction including the formation of the common information space. He noted that Astrakhan Region had developed long-term good neighborly relations with the Caspian countries. This was an important factor for successful implementation of the big number of joint projects in trade, economy, education, healthcare and other important spheres.

«Today, the multi-format cooperation in the Caspian Region has a very serious meaning as never before. And mass media play an especially important role in the interaction between the «Caspian Five» countries and in strengthening the connections along all the vectors», the Governor emphasized. «I am sure that the Forum will be a next serious step towards creating a common efficient media space in the Caspian Region and will contribute to enhancing friendship and mutual understanding of our nations».

Andrey Rudenko, the Deputy RF Minister of Foreign Affairs, in his speech confirmed the important contribution of the Astrakhan Region into enhancing the international cooperation in the Caspian region and read the welcoming message of Sergey Lavrov, the RF Foreign Affairs Minister, to the participants of the 8th Caspian Media Forum. It mentioned that during the years the Forum had turned into an important platform making a noticeable contribution into developing the information agenda of the Region and allowing for the representatives of the governments, media, local communities and business circles of the Caspian countries to jointly discuss the options for the solutions to the key problems of the Caspian Region.

Platform for dialogue

The plenary session «Role of Media in Strengthening Mutual Understanding and Cooperation between the Caspian countries» was the main event of the Forum.

In his welcoming speech Igor Babushkin noted that the Astrakhan Region had turned into the territory for constructive dialogue and strengthening friendly connection for the Caspian partners. «The Caspian Media Forum is an effective mechanism for the real-time dialogue and sharing information on the most relevant issues», the Governor emphasized. «Since long ago, the Astrakhan Region had developed good neighborly relations with Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan».

Igor Babushkin assured the participants that the Astrakhan Region was committed to further enhancement of partner relations in the sphere of media and to establish new professional contacts. He also said he was convinced that productive dialogue between the media representatives, experts, researchers, political analysts and community leaders will help to find answers to many relevant questions on the international agenda and to search for new forms and channels of interaction within the journalists community of the Caspian countries.

Other speakers at the plenary session were as follows: Evgeny Primakov, the Head of the Federal Agency for CIS Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo); Bella Cherkessova, Deputy RF Minister for Digital Technology, Communication and Mass Media; Eldos Nashiral, Chair of the Information Committee of the Ministry of Culture and Information of Kazakhstan; Kyamalya Mamedova, the Editor-in-Chief of the website 1news.az (Azerbaijan); Modabber Ruholla, the political observer from Iran; Irina Imamkuliyeva, the Head of Section of the State News Agency of Turkmenistan; and other speakers, who discussed the current trends of developing the media space in the Caspian Region.

Various discussion platforms were open at the Media Forum. The journalists listened to the presentation about the North-South International Transportation Corridor (ITC), which plays an important role in trade and economic relations. There was a discussion on the issues of professional training of human resources for media. The results of the contest for the media representatives and bloggers under the title of «The Caspian Region Without Borders» were summarized.

The round-table session about the role of the Astrakhan Region in developing the North-South International Transportation Corridor gathered the majority of the Forum participants. Igor Babushkin paid attention to the role of the Caspian Media Forum as an effective way to cover the prospects of this project.

«We organized this platform within the Media Forum with as special purpose, even though this year the overall topic is Public Diplomacy. Traditionally, this platform gathers the strongest journalists and media resources interested in the Caspian agenda. We believe that we need to make all them (and through them all the residents of the Caspian Region) aware of the main trans-Caspian project, the key section of the North-South International Transportation Corridor», he emphasized.

Igor Levitin, the aide to the RF President, was a valuable member of the discussion. In his speech he noted that the Astrakhan Region was a very important logistical hub of Russia. According to Levitin, subject to joining the efforts and achieving the tasks set by President Putin, the North-South ITC will be not only a transportation route, but the economic development route for Iran and the Central Asian countries.

Sanjay Aiyer from India (one of the initiators of the ITC), the Blue Bird Logistics CEO, stated that time had come to develop the North-South corridor, and the sooner this goal is achieved, the better for all the project participants. In his opinion, the Media Forum in Astrakhan may play the determining role for all the participants discussing the current results and setting the prospects for this transportation corridor.

The Forum participants received information about the Caspian Cluster created in the Astrakhan Region on assignment by V. Putin becoming the key element of the Russian section of the corridor. It combines the industrial Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Lotos and the seaport SEZ, where the container terminal construction is underway to increase the transshipment capacities by 3.3 mtpa.

Dmitry Volvach, the Deputy RF Minister of Economic Development, in his speech forecasted that by 2030 the seaport capacities will more than double, for export up to 35 mln tons, for import up to 6 mln tons. On top of that, starting from this May, the shipbuilding yards of the Astrakhan Region supported by the State Transport Leasing Company have launched the project of building four container carrying ships. These ships are universal and adjusted for the Caspian Sea conditions.

Negotiations venue for governments

The Caspian Media Forum provided a chance for time hack between the Astrakhan Regional Government and the representatives of the Caspian states.

Thus, Dauren Abayev, the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan (RoK) to the Russian Federation, paid a working visit to the region to participate in the Media Forum. During his meeting with Igor Babushkin, the Governor of the Astrakhan Region, they discussed the cross-border cooperation in the Caspian Region, the joint projects of Russia and Kazakhstan in the sphere of logistics, agriculture, industrial cooperation, culture and tourism. After the negotiations, Dauren Abayev stated that Kazakhstans prospects for cooperation with the Astrakhan Region looked quite promising, especially in logistics, cross-border trade, culture and education.

«Overall, in 2022, the trade turnover between Kazakhstan and Russia made USD 26 bn. These volumes are growing, and it makes us happy. The growth of turnover with the Astrakhan Region is also noticeable», the RoK Ambassador informed. He also indicated the big potential for developing the cruise tourism in the Caspian Sea. «I believe this project to be a rather interesting one, it will be very popular, because many unique cities are situated on the shores of the Caspian Sea Baku, Aktau, Derbent, Makhachkala, Astrakhan and others. These are different cities with diverse culture, history and prospects. If the tourism companies pack it beautifully, such cruises will be of high demand», Abayev said.

In addition to Russia-Kazakhstan negotiations, on the sidelines of the Caspian Media Forum the top officials of the Astrakhan Region had a meeting with delegation from Baku headed by Ahmed Ismailov, the Executive Director of the Media Development Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The parties discussed the relevant issues of bilateral cooperation. When welcoming the guests, the head of the region noted that for many years the Astrakhan Region and Azerbaijan stayed united on the basis of solid multi-fold connections in various spheres. The trade and economic cooperation is very close.

«In April, during a visit to Baku, I took part in the meeting between the representatives of grassroots youth organizations from the Astrakhan Region and from Azerbaijan», Igor Babushkin said. «We discussed the issues of developing the youth entrepreneurship and other important topics. I am sure that similar contacts will continue». Ahmed Ismailov mentioned that the delegation of Azerbaijan had been a participant of the preceding Caspian Media Forums in Astrakhan, and in Baku this platform is considered a very useful one, because it provides for the representatives of the media community of the Caspian countries an opportunity to discuss the most relevant topics of mutual cooperation, to participate is various discussions. Ahmed Ismailov shared his confidence in the continuation of cooperation between Astrakhan and Azerbaijan media.

Mehdi Akuchekian, the Consul General of Iran in Astrakhan, said that the Islamic Republic of Iran currently was one of the key partners of the Astrakhan Region. The parties have established close contacts and intend to enhance the cooperation including the development of the North-South ITC. The diplomat informed that Iran had already made impressive investment into developing the Astrakhan seaport, which will soon purchase a number of ships. «Compared to the previous year, the number of Iranian cargo ships in the Caspian Sea tripled», Mehdi Akuchekian said. «We also added a big number of trucks for the North-South ITC automotive segment. Some Iranian investors started business in the agricultural sector of the Astrakhan Region. Roza company is building the detergents manufacturing site in the Lotos industrial SEZ. The products are expected in the market in 2024 already».

New concept

One month after the Caspian Media Forum, on 25-26 October, Astrakhan hosted another international forum called «The North-South ITC: new concept. Facilitated access to the premium markets of the East, Asia, Africa and India». The following companies and organizations organized this event: the Astrakhan Regional Ministry of Industry, Trade and Energy, RusIranExpo Group, the North-South Caspian International Integration Club and the Astrakhan State University named after V.N. Tatishchev.

Representatives of official authorities, of logistic and trade companies from Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan arrived to Astrakhan to participate in the Forum. Representatives of Iraq, Yemen, Uzbekistan and African countries Zambia, Eritrea, South Sudan.

Igor Babushkin, the Governor of the Astrakhan Region, of course, could not turn his back on this Forum. He informed about the measures undertaken by the Region to develop the North-South corridor and increasing its traffic. In the new geopolitical conditions, the traditional global logistics is changing. In relation to this, the role of the Astrakhan Region as a strategic territory and the key element of the Trans-Caspian section of the North-South ITC is rising dramatically.

Ramazan Abdulatipov, the Chairman of the North-South Caspian International Integration Club, addressed the participants emphasizing that the Astrakhan Region was undertaking serious efforts to improve the efficiency of this very important logistic route. Abdulatipov believes the Caspian Region to be the core of the International Transportation Corridor uniting giant territories of different countries and providing huge economic opportunities.

In his video address, Kazem Jalali, the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Islamic Republic Iran to the Russian Federation, noted that all the interested countries needed to consolidate their efforts to establish the unhampered end-to-end route from Saint-Petersburg to Iranian ports in the Persian Gulf.

The Forum on the North-South ITC was very pragmatically oriented. During several sessions the following aspects of the transportation corridor functioning were discusses:

1. The markets, supply and demand balance in the countries of the Middle East, Iran, South Asia and East Africa. The proposals by the logistics companies from Russia, Iran, CIS countries and Asia. Proposals by the banks, financial and insurance companies with respect to assurance of the trade turnover and transit in the sanctions environment.

2. The needs and export proposals of Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the countries of the Middle East, South Asia, East Africa and other countries.

3. The operating and the new trade hubs in the Middle East, South Asia, East Africa.

4. The financial arrangements for cash flows and freight insurance for working with the East and the Global South.

5. The transportation and logistical routes of the North-South ITC and connected routes, actual costs, speed and regularity of shipments. The pros and cons of different routes.

6. The advantages, limitations, costs and risk of maritime shipments from Novorossiysk and Saint-Petersburg to the Middle East, India, the countries of South Asia and East Africa.

7. Parallel import and re-export in the new conditions.

8. The new concept of the North-South ITC as the opportunity to facilitate the economically efficient access to the markets of the Middle East, South Asia and East Africa.

The participants of the Forum had a chance to join the organized tours of the Astrakhan Region seaports and industrial sites of Lotos Special Economic Zone (SEZ) to learn more about the infrastructure, transportation, logistical and investment capabilities of the Region.

The platform for new initiatives

The international forum called «The North-South ITC: new concept. Facilitated access to the premium markets of the East, Asia, Africa and India» was at the top of the media agenda for several days. Based on the outcomes of the Forum, a series of initiatives were announced associated with the development of this transportation corridor.

Thus, Astrakhan Region is planning the construction of the first containers manufacturing site in 2024. It will be producing various types of containers including special-purpose ones and tank containers. Sergey Milushkin, the General Director of Lotos Specialized Economic Zone informed about this project. He also mentioned that two more federal companies were planning to become the residents of the Caspian cluster, one of them being a major logistics company, and the other one intending to build a refrigerator warehouse also scheduled for commissioning during the next year.

Kazem Jalili, the Ambassador of Iran to Russia, estimated the potential cargo traffic of the Eastern branch of the North-South ITC as 15 mln tons. This branch could be used more efficiently transporting more cargos and goods.

Maria Nikitina, the founder of the N.Trans Lab logistic project, noted in her report: the times of natural passive development of the North-South ITC have gone, active interference of the governments is required. Nikitina informed that in accordance with the RF Government plans, the cargo traffic via the North-South ITC by 2040 will make 40 mln tons. In her opinion, by 2030, 251 mln tons of Russian export will be destined for the East and South-East countries, and 75 mln tons of such export will be profitably transported via the North-South ITC. It means that passive construction of the North-South ITC is no longer in line with the needs of Russia. In this connection, the proposal is to «create logistical conditions for operating with such speed, deadlines and rates parameters, which make this corridor attractive».

Baht-ur-Rahman Sharafat, the General Director of the Afghanistan Railways, informed about the decision of Kabul to establish the Russian rail gage of 1,520 mm for the Trans-Afghani Railway so that there is no need to change the wheel bogies of the Russian r/w cars on this section of the Railway. In Afghanistan, the rail gage is 1,435 mm, to but it will be a special engineering solution to install the Russian rail gage.

Dmitry Dubovik, the Director of the North-South Caspian International Integration Club, informed that the decision-making on organizing the international forum in Astrakhan dedicated to the working issues of the North-South ITC was not easy. Initially, this corridor was conceived for organizing the cargo traffic from Saint-Petersburg to India, Africa and Malaysia just defining the multi-modality as the key feature. The new concept of the corridor assumes detailing the destinations in line with the current market needs. «This concept is designed to answer the question: what are the most profitable cargos for the market players, what prices and what categories of goods are the most efficient for transporting to certain countries and regions, what services and technologies will be in demand along the cargo movement routes, what cargos and where are in shortage, and what are not», Dubovik explained.

Conclusion

We should state that the conducted international forums confirmed the Astrakhan Region status as an important platform for establishing cooperation between the media communities of the Caspian countries and between the respective governments and business communities.

In the aggravating international political situation and growing geopolitical rivalry in Eurasia, the events like these forums allow not only for maintaining and strengthening the atmosphere of cooperation and mutual understanding in the Caspian Region, but also for developing long-term strategy for the Caspian countries economies and defining the ways to implement major economic integration projects in the interests of all the regional actors.

16+
4 office, XXIVd premise , 5 floor, 2 Novodmitrovskaya Str., 2 bldg., Moscow, Russia 127015.
Savyolovsky City Business Center, Davis Tower
Ph. +7 (495) 767-81-36
Ph./Fax: +7 (495) 783-68-27
E-mail: info@caspian.institute
Legal footer
All the rights for the materials published on this website reside with the Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies. Reprint of materials and their use in any form including in digital media is permissible strictly subject to exclusive reference to CISS.
2022-2023, Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies
top
Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies
Publications

Caspian forums in Astrakhan: an instrument for inter-state political and economic cooperation

photo: gov.astrobl.ru
17 2023

The Astrakhan Region in the current international dynamics is turning into an extremely important geopolitical center of Russia on the Caspian Sea. In 2023, it hosted two important international forums dedicated to the development of cultural-humanitarian and trade-economic international connections in the Caspian Region.

In September, the 8th Caspian Media Forum took place in Astrakhan, and its main topic was «Public Diplomacy and Social Media as a Factor of Rapprochement of Nations». In October, the city hosted an international forum «North-South ITC: the New Concept. Quick Access to the Premium Markets of the East, Asia, Africa and India».

On the high level

The Astrakhan Regional Government sponsored the 8th Caspian Media Forum supported by the RF Presidential Executive Office, the RF Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the RF Ministry for Digital Technology, Communication and Mass Media. Over 400 journalists and government representatives from the Caspian countries Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan, as well as from Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, India and some other countries took part in the event.

Igor Babushkin, the Governor of the Astrakhan Region, was setting the tone across all the two days of the Forum. The meeting of the official delegations with participation of the Governor and Andrey Rudenko, the Deputy RF Minister of Foreign Affairs, took place on Day 1.

Igor Babushkin characterized the participation of so many foreign guests in the Forum as an evidence of the common intent to enhance interaction including the formation of the common information space. He noted that Astrakhan Region had developed long-term good neighborly relations with the Caspian countries. This was an important factor for successful implementation of the big number of joint projects in trade, economy, education, healthcare and other important spheres.

«Today, the multi-format cooperation in the Caspian Region has a very serious meaning as never before. And mass media play an especially important role in the interaction between the «Caspian Five» countries and in strengthening the connections along all the vectors», the Governor emphasized. «I am sure that the Forum will be a next serious step towards creating a common efficient media space in the Caspian Region and will contribute to enhancing friendship and mutual understanding of our nations».

Andrey Rudenko, the Deputy RF Minister of Foreign Affairs, in his speech confirmed the important contribution of the Astrakhan Region into enhancing the international cooperation in the Caspian region and read the welcoming message of Sergey Lavrov, the RF Foreign Affairs Minister, to the participants of the 8th Caspian Media Forum. It mentioned that during the years the Forum had turned into an important platform making a noticeable contribution into developing the information agenda of the Region and allowing for the representatives of the governments, media, local communities and business circles of the Caspian countries to jointly discuss the options for the solutions to the key problems of the Caspian Region.

Platform for dialogue

The plenary session «Role of Media in Strengthening Mutual Understanding and Cooperation between the Caspian countries» was the main event of the Forum.

In his welcoming speech Igor Babushkin noted that the Astrakhan Region had turned into the territory for constructive dialogue and strengthening friendly connection for the Caspian partners. «The Caspian Media Forum is an effective mechanism for the real-time dialogue and sharing information on the most relevant issues», the Governor emphasized. «Since long ago, the Astrakhan Region had developed good neighborly relations with Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan».

Igor Babushkin assured the participants that the Astrakhan Region was committed to further enhancement of partner relations in the sphere of media and to establish new professional contacts. He also said he was convinced that productive dialogue between the media representatives, experts, researchers, political analysts and community leaders will help to find answers to many relevant questions on the international agenda and to search for new forms and channels of interaction within the journalists community of the Caspian countries.

Other speakers at the plenary session were as follows: Evgeny Primakov, the Head of the Federal Agency for CIS Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo); Bella Cherkessova, Deputy RF Minister for Digital Technology, Communication and Mass Media; Eldos Nashiral, Chair of the Information Committee of the Ministry of Culture and Information of Kazakhstan; Kyamalya Mamedova, the Editor-in-Chief of the website 1news.az (Azerbaijan); Modabber Ruholla, the political observer from Iran; Irina Imamkuliyeva, the Head of Section of the State News Agency of Turkmenistan; and other speakers, who discussed the current trends of developing the media space in the Caspian Region.

Various discussion platforms were open at the Media Forum. The journalists listened to the presentation about the North-South International Transportation Corridor (ITC), which plays an important role in trade and economic relations. There was a discussion on the issues of professional training of human resources for media. The results of the contest for the media representatives and bloggers under the title of «The Caspian Region Without Borders» were summarized.

The round-table session about the role of the Astrakhan Region in developing the North-South International Transportation Corridor gathered the majority of the Forum participants. Igor Babushkin paid attention to the role of the Caspian Media Forum as an effective way to cover the prospects of this project.

«We organized this platform within the Media Forum with as special purpose, even though this year the overall topic is Public Diplomacy. Traditionally, this platform gathers the strongest journalists and media resources interested in the Caspian agenda. We believe that we need to make all them (and through them all the residents of the Caspian Region) aware of the main trans-Caspian project, the key section of the North-South International Transportation Corridor», he emphasized.

Igor Levitin, the aide to the RF President, was a valuable member of the discussion. In his speech he noted that the Astrakhan Region was a very important logistical hub of Russia. According to Levitin, subject to joining the efforts and achieving the tasks set by President Putin, the North-South ITC will be not only a transportation route, but the economic development route for Iran and the Central Asian countries.

Sanjay Aiyer from India (one of the initiators of the ITC), the Blue Bird Logistics CEO, stated that time had come to develop the North-South corridor, and the sooner this goal is achieved, the better for all the project participants. In his opinion, the Media Forum in Astrakhan may play the determining role for all the participants discussing the current results and setting the prospects for this transportation corridor.

The Forum participants received information about the Caspian Cluster created in the Astrakhan Region on assignment by V. Putin becoming the key element of the Russian section of the corridor. It combines the industrial Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Lotos and the seaport SEZ, where the container terminal construction is underway to increase the transshipment capacities by 3.3 mtpa.

Dmitry Volvach, the Deputy RF Minister of Economic Development, in his speech forecasted that by 2030 the seaport capacities will more than double, for export up to 35 mln tons, for import up to 6 mln tons. On top of that, starting from this May, the shipbuilding yards of the Astrakhan Region supported by the State Transport Leasing Company have launched the project of building four container carrying ships. These ships are universal and adjusted for the Caspian Sea conditions.

Negotiations venue for governments

The Caspian Media Forum provided a chance for time hack between the Astrakhan Regional Government and the representatives of the Caspian states.

Thus, Dauren Abayev, the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan (RoK) to the Russian Federation, paid a working visit to the region to participate in the Media Forum. During his meeting with Igor Babushkin, the Governor of the Astrakhan Region, they discussed the cross-border cooperation in the Caspian Region, the joint projects of Russia and Kazakhstan in the sphere of logistics, agriculture, industrial cooperation, culture and tourism. After the negotiations, Dauren Abayev stated that Kazakhstans prospects for cooperation with the Astrakhan Region looked quite promising, especially in logistics, cross-border trade, culture and education.

«Overall, in 2022, the trade turnover between Kazakhstan and Russia made USD 26 bn. These volumes are growing, and it makes us happy. The growth of turnover with the Astrakhan Region is also noticeable», the RoK Ambassador informed. He also indicated the big potential for developing the cruise tourism in the Caspian Sea. «I believe this project to be a rather interesting one, it will be very popular, because many unique cities are situated on the shores of the Caspian Sea Baku, Aktau, Derbent, Makhachkala, Astrakhan and others. These are different cities with diverse culture, history and prospects. If the tourism companies pack it beautifully, such cruises will be of high demand», Abayev said.

In addition to Russia-Kazakhstan negotiations, on the sidelines of the Caspian Media Forum the top officials of the Astrakhan Region had a meeting with delegation from Baku headed by Ahmed Ismailov, the Executive Director of the Media Development Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The parties discussed the relevant issues of bilateral cooperation. When welcoming the guests, the head of the region noted that for many years the Astrakhan Region and Azerbaijan stayed united on the basis of solid multi-fold connections in various spheres. The trade and economic cooperation is very close.

«In April, during a visit to Baku, I took part in the meeting between the representatives of grassroots youth organizations from the Astrakhan Region and from Azerbaijan», Igor Babushkin said. «We discussed the issues of developing the youth entrepreneurship and other important topics. I am sure that similar contacts will continue». Ahmed Ismailov mentioned that the delegation of Azerbaijan had been a participant of the preceding Caspian Media Forums in Astrakhan, and in Baku this platform is considered a very useful one, because it provides for the representatives of the media community of the Caspian countries an opportunity to discuss the most relevant topics of mutual cooperation, to participate is various discussions. Ahmed Ismailov shared his confidence in the continuation of cooperation between Astrakhan and Azerbaijan media.

Mehdi Akuchekian, the Consul General of Iran in Astrakhan, said that the Islamic Republic of Iran currently was one of the key partners of the Astrakhan Region. The parties have established close contacts and intend to enhance the cooperation including the development of the North-South ITC. The diplomat informed that Iran had already made impressive investment into developing the Astrakhan seaport, which will soon purchase a number of ships. «Compared to the previous year, the number of Iranian cargo ships in the Caspian Sea tripled», Mehdi Akuchekian said. «We also added a big number of trucks for the North-South ITC automotive segment. Some Iranian investors started business in the agricultural sector of the Astrakhan Region. Roza company is building the detergents manufacturing site in the Lotos industrial SEZ. The products are expected in the market in 2024 already».

New concept

One month after the Caspian Media Forum, on 25-26 October, Astrakhan hosted another international forum called «The North-South ITC: new concept. Facilitated access to the premium markets of the East, Asia, Africa and India». The following companies and organizations organized this event: the Astrakhan Regional Ministry of Industry, Trade and Energy, RusIranExpo Group, the North-South Caspian International Integration Club and the Astrakhan State University named after V.N. Tatishchev.

Representatives of official authorities, of logistic and trade companies from Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan arrived to Astrakhan to participate in the Forum. Representatives of Iraq, Yemen, Uzbekistan and African countries Zambia, Eritrea, South Sudan.

Igor Babushkin, the Governor of the Astrakhan Region, of course, could not turn his back on this Forum. He informed about the measures undertaken by the Region to develop the North-South corridor and increasing its traffic. In the new geopolitical conditions, the traditional global logistics is changing. In relation to this, the role of the Astrakhan Region as a strategic territory and the key element of the Trans-Caspian section of the North-South ITC is rising dramatically.

Ramazan Abdulatipov, the Chairman of the North-South Caspian International Integration Club, addressed the participants emphasizing that the Astrakhan Region was undertaking serious efforts to improve the efficiency of this very important logistic route. Abdulatipov believes the Caspian Region to be the core of the International Transportation Corridor uniting giant territories of different countries and providing huge economic opportunities.

In his video address, Kazem Jalali, the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Islamic Republic Iran to the Russian Federation, noted that all the interested countries needed to consolidate their efforts to establish the unhampered end-to-end route from Saint-Petersburg to Iranian ports in the Persian Gulf.

The Forum on the North-South ITC was very pragmatically oriented. During several sessions the following aspects of the transportation corridor functioning were discusses:

1. The markets, supply and demand balance in the countries of the Middle East, Iran, South Asia and East Africa. The proposals by the logistics companies from Russia, Iran, CIS countries and Asia. Proposals by the banks, financial and insurance companies with respect to assurance of the trade turnover and transit in the sanctions environment.

2. The needs and export proposals of Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the countries of the Middle East, South Asia, East Africa and other countries.

3. The operating and the new trade hubs in the Middle East, South Asia, East Africa.

4. The financial arrangements for cash flows and freight insurance for working with the East and the Global South.

5. The transportation and logistical routes of the North-South ITC and connected routes, actual costs, speed and regularity of shipments. The pros and cons of different routes.

6. The advantages, limitations, costs and risk of maritime shipments from Novorossiysk and Saint-Petersburg to the Middle East, India, the countries of South Asia and East Africa.

7. Parallel import and re-export in the new conditions.

8. The new concept of the North-South ITC as the opportunity to facilitate the economically efficient access to the markets of the Middle East, South Asia and East Africa.

The participants of the Forum had a chance to join the organized tours of the Astrakhan Region seaports and industrial sites of Lotos Special Economic Zone (SEZ) to learn more about the infrastructure, transportation, logistical and investment capabilities of the Region.

The platform for new initiatives

The international forum called «The North-South ITC: new concept. Facilitated access to the premium markets of the East, Asia, Africa and India» was at the top of the media agenda for several days. Based on the outcomes of the Forum, a series of initiatives were announced associated with the development of this transportation corridor.

Thus, Astrakhan Region is planning the construction of the first containers manufacturing site in 2024. It will be producing various types of containers including special-purpose ones and tank containers. Sergey Milushkin, the General Director of Lotos Specialized Economic Zone informed about this project. He also mentioned that two more federal companies were planning to become the residents of the Caspian cluster, one of them being a major logistics company, and the other one intending to build a refrigerator warehouse also scheduled for commissioning during the next year.

Kazem Jalili, the Ambassador of Iran to Russia, estimated the potential cargo traffic of the Eastern branch of the North-South ITC as 15 mln tons. This branch could be used more efficiently transporting more cargos and goods.

Maria Nikitina, the founder of the N.Trans Lab logistic project, noted in her report: the times of natural passive development of the North-South ITC have gone, active interference of the governments is required. Nikitina informed that in accordance with the RF Government plans, the cargo traffic via the North-South ITC by 2040 will make 40 mln tons. In her opinion, by 2030, 251 mln tons of Russian export will be destined for the East and South-East countries, and 75 mln tons of such export will be profitably transported via the North-South ITC. It means that passive construction of the North-South ITC is no longer in line with the needs of Russia. In this connection, the proposal is to «create logistical conditions for operating with such speed, deadlines and rates parameters, which make this corridor attractive».

Baht-ur-Rahman Sharafat, the General Director of the Afghanistan Railways, informed about the decision of Kabul to establish the Russian rail gage of 1,520 mm for the Trans-Afghani Railway so that there is no need to change the wheel bogies of the Russian r/w cars on this section of the Railway. In Afghanistan, the rail gage is 1,435 mm, to but it will be a special engineering solution to install the Russian rail gage.

Dmitry Dubovik, the Director of the North-South Caspian International Integration Club, informed that the decision-making on organizing the international forum in Astrakhan dedicated to the working issues of the North-South ITC was not easy. Initially, this corridor was conceived for organizing the cargo traffic from Saint-Petersburg to India, Africa and Malaysia just defining the multi-modality as the key feature. The new concept of the corridor assumes detailing the destinations in line with the current market needs. «This concept is designed to answer the question: what are the most profitable cargos for the market players, what prices and what categories of goods are the most efficient for transporting to certain countries and regions, what services and technologies will be in demand along the cargo movement routes, what cargos and where are in shortage, and what are not», Dubovik explained.

Conclusion

We should state that the conducted international forums confirmed the Astrakhan Region status as an important platform for establishing cooperation between the media communities of the Caspian countries and between the respective governments and business communities.

In the aggravating international political situation and growing geopolitical rivalry in Eurasia, the events like these forums allow not only for maintaining and strengthening the atmosphere of cooperation and mutual understanding in the Caspian Region, but also for developing long-term strategy for the Caspian countries economies and defining the ways to implement major economic integration projects in the interests of all the regional actors.