President Erdoğan invited to Chinese Silk Road Summit
by Ali Ünal
ANKARAMar 03, 2017 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Ali Ünal
Mar 03, 2017 12:00 am
China has invited President Erdoğan to attend a major OBOR Summit that will be held in Beijing in May, Daily Sabah has learned from diplomatic sources. Chinese President Xi Jinping, in recent weeks, has said that the upcoming forum will explore ways to address regional and global economic problems and generate fresh energy for interconnected development. Xi Jinping had put forward the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, to build a trade and infrastructure-based network, connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road trade routes. "One Belt, One Road," refers to the "Silk Road Economic Belt," which recreates the ancient, land-based Silk Road trade routes from China across Central Asia and into to the Middle East and Europe, also known as the "Modern Silk Road."
The OBOR's northern corridor passes through Kazakhstan and Russia while the middle corridor cuts through the Caspian region and the southern corridor goes through Iran. Turkey lies in the OBOR's middle corridor, which is considered the fastest route for transfer of Chinese goods to Europe.
Turkey and the modern-day Silk Road
With Turkey very much acquainted with the ancient Silk Road, which it once partially controlled, the modern-day interpretation of the Silk Road, supported by China, is of great importance for the country's aim to increase its trade volume.
The modern Silk Road project will yield vast economic opportunities that could boost the trade volume between all the parties included in it. Since Turkey is located on a strategic route, close to where the Silk Road ends, the country is considered a hub through which Chinese goods will be delivered to Europe. This will seal the integration of the Silk Road to the global markets. As President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan underscored at the 13th Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Summit in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, Turkey's mega projects were in line with China's new Silk Road initiative, better known as "One Belt, One Road (OBOR)."
"We have given great importance to the Edirne-Kars high-speed railway project, which is under construction, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project and the 1915 Çanakkale (Dardanelles) Bridge that will be built across the Dardanelles Strait," the president said.. President Erdoğan pointed out that all these projects could become important parts of China's OBOR initiative.
"In fact, these investments are part of the modern version of the historic Silk Road. I believe that China's new Silk Road project is also very important in this respect," he added.
Importance of the Baku-Tblisi-Kars railway
The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway has come to the fore as a critical project at the western end of the Silk Road. Similar transportation projects also reinforce Turkey's economic and political ties with the other Eurasian countries.
With a view to offering a more efficient approach to transportation that could facilitate the trade between China and the European Union, China identified three land routes and a maritime route within the framework of the OBOR initiative. One of the three land routes, the Middle Corridor, passes through Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.
"Although various options, such as highway, airway, land and maritime routes, are on the table for China and OBOR participant countries within the framework of regional integration, railway transportation is more time-efficient, environmentally friendly and secure compared to others. Hence, projects in the context of the 'Iron Silk Road' are expected to gain more momentum in mid-2017," wrote Özge Nur Öğütçü in a recent op-ed, drawing attention to the fact that the BTK railway will provide an uninterrupted corridor from China to London, once finished.