BAKU, Azerbaijan, Sept. 28
An international round table entitled "Cooperation between Russia, Azerbaijan, and Iran in the Caspian Sea. Industrial cooperation and transit potential", organized by the North-South Political Science Center jointly with the Baku Network Center for International Politics and Security, was held in Moscow on Sept.28, Trend reports.
The event moderators were the Director of the Baku Network Center for International Policy and Security Gulnara Mammadzade and the Executive Director of the North-South Political Science Center Anzhelika Trapeznikova.
The round table participants discussed such issues as the development of industrial parks and free economic zones in ports; International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) on both - rail and road - routes; general opportunities for expanding capacity and increasing freight traffic between states; development of shipping companies in Russia, Azerbaijan, and Iran; development of cooperation projects in the dynamics of integration of the states of the region and the tasks of further regional integration.
The special guest of the round table was the Iranian Ambassador to Russia Kazem Jalali. According to the Russian ‘Vestnik Kavkaza’, in his speech, Jalali stressed that Iran is still committed to the implementation of the North-South project, which requires completion of the construction of the Rasht-Astara railway.
"We have already made test transportation along the route," he said.
Jalali stressed that generally, Iran is ready to develop railway communication with Azerbaijan and Russia, and also supports the use of combined, "railroad + sea route" routes of cargo transportation.
"We are ready to work with Russia on the sea transport fleet. We need ships that could transport our wagons. We are strengthening our fleet," the Iranian ambassador to Russia said.
He also drew attention to the fact that soon Iran will open automobile communication with Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation.
"This will allow the development of road cargo transportation. We need to coordinate all the opportunities for economic cooperation, in this case - to agree on all issues so that there is no idle time of trucks at the borders," Jalali noted.
“Tehran will achieve the construction of the North-South corridor,” Representative of the Ministry of Road and Urban Development of Iran, Hamed Reza Heydari, stressed, adding that the drivers of the project are Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan.
"We are working on laying rail and road routes between our countries. We also need to work on the digital component of transport projects," he said.
Jahangir Karami, Associate Professor at the Faculty of World Studies of the Department of Russian Studies of the University of Tehran, drew attention to the fact that international cooperation isn’t based on economics alone.
"The North-South corridor is also a guarantee of the region's security," he explained.
According to Karami, the delay of the North-South project’s implementation for more than 20 years has several reasons. The first of them is infrastructural restrictions, since the countries have traditionally been engaged in sea trade across the Caspian, and the North-South has proposed a completely new, overland route. The second reason is the absence of a pivot for the project.
"In the Silk Road project, China was such a pivot. In our case, there is no country that would be ready to finance this project at the level of China," Karami explained, adding that the pivot should be three countries participating in the project - Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan.
The third reason, according to him, is the large number of states participating in the project, the fourth - political problems between these countries, and the fifth - the presence of transport projects competing with the INSTC.
"Nevertheless, we need to use all the possibilities of the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea. The North-South should become a bridge between Europe and Asia," the expert advised.
The event was attended by leading experts on the Caspian region from the state, scientific and public organizations of the states of the "Caspian Five", including the President of the Institute of Political and International Studies, Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran in 2013-2016 Seyed Mohammed Kazem Sajapur, Chairman and General Director of the Anzeli Free Zone Organization Ali Osat Akbari Mogaddam, head of the "South Caucasus" political science club Ilgar Valizade and vice-rector of the ADA University Fariz Ismayilzade.