Expert: Russia, Azerbaijan making efforts to keep Iran in North-South project

Expert: Russia, Azerbaijan making efforts to keep Iran in North-South project

Baku, Azerbaijan, Nov. 27

By Matanat Nasibova - Trend:

The North-South project is one of the key points of political interaction between Russia and Azerbaijan, respectively, the significance of the transport corridor is high for both states, Russian analyst at the Center for Political Information Ivan Pyatibratov told Trend.

The expert was commenting on the agreement to establish a working group for the further development of cargo transportation on the North-South ITC between Azerbaijan, Russia and Iran.

The matter was discussed in Moscow as part of a recent meeting between Russian Deputy Minister of Transport Alexei Semenov, Azerbaijani Deputy Minister of Transport, Communications and High Technologies Elmir Velizade and Deputy Minister of Roads and Urban Planning of Iran Shahram Adamnejad.

The parties of the meeting considered the issues of cargo transportation between the three countries, noting the increase in their volumes.

Based on the results of the discussion, the sides decided to establish a joint working group to address issues of further development in transport between countries, as well as an appropriate monitoring system.

Pyatibratov noted that the importance of the North-South ITC for Russia is primarily due to geopolitical reasons, more precisely expanding its diplomatic and economic presence in the East.

"For Azerbaijan, this corridor is more interesting from economic point of view: the country receives direct access to the western market, as well as the status of an international transport hub, which guarantees its economic growth. Therefore, the potential benefits of the North-South corridor are very real and understandable for our countries," Pyatibratov said.

He noted that besides Russia and Azerbaijan, Iran, which is the most important element of the project and the Astara-Rasht-Qazvin transport corridor in particular, also participates in North-South ITC project.

"It is obvious that presently, the Iranian side has objective problems: in 2018, the US withdrew from a nuclear deal with Iran and imposed sanctions against the country, which dealt a serious blow to its economy. At the same time, the fall of the Iranian rial and the rise in food prices, as well as the drought led to massive social protests. Thus, one of the partners of Russia and Azerbaijan in the North-South project is in a state of economic and political turbulence, and when it comes out of it, isn't clear yet. In this regard, it can be assumed that the implementation of the entire North-South project will be delayed until the issue with Iran is resolved," Pyatibratov added.

The expert stressed that Russia and Azerbaijan won't stop working on the project, which means that the part of the project for which they are responsible will be implemented on time.

"It is worth noting that both the Russian and Azerbaijani sides are making efforts so that Iran does not withdraw from the project. And I think that the decision to create a trilateral working group on the development of the North-South corridor in November 2018 is a clear confirmation of this," the expert said.

The North-South ITC is designed for the transportation of goods from India and the Gulf countries to Russia, Western Europe, the Baltic and Scandinavian countries. Cargo transportation by sea through the Persian Gulf, the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean Sea to Helsinki is carried out within 45-60 days, while the North-South corridor decreases the delivery time to 20-25 days.

In order to develop transportation in the region, Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia signed an agreement in 2005 on the construction of 375 km railway in Iran, and in Azerbaijan, between Astara district and Azerbaijan-Iran border, as well as the reconstruction of the existing railway in Azerbaijan.

The Astara-Rasht-Qazvin railway project envisages the construction of a new railway line in Iran, which will connect Azerbaijan's Astara to the Iranian cities of Astara, Rasht and Qazvin.

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Follow the author on Twitter: @MatanatNasibova

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