On August 23, German Chancellor Angela Merkel went on a tour around South Caucasus, which was called historical even before the trip, since it is the first of a kind. Its agenda varied from country to country, since Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia are located in the same region, but implement different foreign policy concepts. What goals does the German Chancellor pursue and what did she achieve during her three-day trip?
Georgia chooses Euro-Atlantic integration as a priority; Armenia is an EAEU, ECU and CSTO member, and Azerbaijan is shaping an independent foreign policy, deepening bilateral relations and its membership in Non-Aligned Movement.
Along with the bilateral (Germany / regional countries) format, the EU relations context should also be considered. Here the differentiated approach to each country could be noted too. For example, Azerbaijan has not signed an EU Association Agreement, continuing working on the preparation of a large treaty covering all areas of cooperation. It should be mentioned that for the entire history of the EU Azerbaijan is the only country preparing the draft on its own.
Since Germany’s policy towards Transcaucasia is not pro-active, it has certain priorities concerning relations with each country. Its talks with Georgia touched upon further deepening of EU integration, possible NATO membership and the implementation of the gas storage project: in Azerbaijan, more attention was paid to energy issues, the settlement of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan, transport and communication projects. In Armenia, the German Chancellor became acquainted with the country’s new authorities.
Azerbaijan is Germany’s biggest partner in the region (having about 70% of trade there). Baku hosted the only business forum during the regional tour. During the visit, an agreement between the German concern Uniper and the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) was signed: according to it, the companies are working together on future energy efficiency projects in oil and gas production in Azerbaijan. The cooperation between the two companies covers numerous spheres. In 2015, they created a joint venture to manufacture turbine-generator sets.
At the same time, for the EU, the Southern Gas Corridor, which implies gas transit from Azerbaijan to Europe, is strategically important. President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev expressed his opinion on transit capabilities of the pipeline: “Regarding Azerbaijan's transit capabilities and our relations, each country wants more cargo to pass through its territory. Now, we deliver oil from Turkmenistan via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline to the global markets and export dry Central Asia cargoes through Azerbaijan via the recently commissioned Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. However, the construction of the Trans-Caspian pipeline should be of primary interest for gas owners, transit countries should not show initiative here”.
On the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, several statements were made to support the process of negotiations. Germany is a member of the OSCE Minsk Group, whose goal is to resolve the conflict according to international legal documents, namely the fourth resolution of the UN Security Council. The German Chancellor emphasized that “the fact that a new government was formed in Armenia may possibly improve the situation and promote the negotiations”. Azerbaijan also wants the substantive dialogue to be continued.