Project connecting North with South: view from three sides
Baku, Azerbaijan, Aug.8
By Maksim Tsurkov - Trend:
The North-South international transportation corridor, which is being implemented by Azerbaijan, Russia and Iran, will be the main topic of discussions during the summit of the three countries’ presidents in Baku Aug.8.
Earlier, this information was confirmed to Trend by high-ranking officials of the three countries’ railway authorities – deputy head of Azerbaijan Railways Igbal Huseynov, first vice-president of Russian Railways Alexander Misharin and vice-president of operation and international transportation of Islamic Republic of Iran Railways Hossein Ashoori.
Moreover, all three sides admit and emphasize the great importance of the North-South project and Azerbaijan’s role in its implementation.
Igbal Huseynov has said that Azerbaijan is especially interested in this project’s implementation, since as a country located at the crossroads of the main international transportation corridors running from the north to the south and from the east to the west, it has played a role of a bridge throughout centuries.
Hossein Ashoori, for his part, has confirmed that Azerbaijan has a serious attitude towards the development of the North-South transit corridor. He pointed out that the representatives of Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan hold meetings every month to discuss this project and Baku plays a key role here. Ashoori also noted that Iran is interested in the settlement of all the issues related to the project during the trilateral meeting of the presidents.
The North-South project will give a serious impetus to the effective economic development of not only the three main participants of the project. Other countries can also join this project and this will make it possible to establish solid trade turnover between North Europe and South-East Asia.
If the North-South corridor operates at full capacity, it will create an opportunity for European countries, Russia, Caucasus and Central Asian countries to get access to the Persian Gulf and India and for intensifying the relations between Caspian Sea countries and Black Sea ports.
Moreover, the Russian side believes in the need to attract new members to the project, in particular India. Alexander Misharin told Trend that it will allow studying comprehensively the whole range of issues related to the transportation of goods, as well as simplifying the process of coordination and approval of the agreements reached between all participants. It is obvious that all parties of the project are making significant efforts to create the necessary conditions for attracting cargos to the international transportation corridor.
Finland’s involvement in the project is also under discussion. Igbal Huseynov said that at the meeting of the heads of railway authorities of Azerbaijan, Russia, Iran and Finland Javid Gurbanov, Oleg Belozerov, Mohsen Pour Seyed Aghaei and Mikael Aro – on June 2 in Russia’s Sochi within the 11th International Rail Business Forum, Finland’s representative noted that his country is interested in the transportation corridor.
The importance of India’s involvement in the project is also supported by the fact that the first test train from this country to Russia will be launched on the North-South route in the near future.
Ashoori said that Tehran and Delhi held two meetings in 2016 to discuss India’s participation in this route, since Iran would like to start to develop a combined transit system. The first experimental cargo transiting from India to Russia through Iran and Azerbaijan will be carried out in August.
The cargo will be shipped from India to Bandar Abbas port by the Persian Gulf, then it will be transited via rail to the city of Qazvin, then carried by trucks to Azerbaijan's city of Astara near the border with Iran. Finally the cargo will be delivered to Russia via the Azerbaijan-Russia railroad, added Ashoori.
First Vice President of Russian Railways Alexander Misharin added that a corresponding working group was created to solve this task. “Currently, the containers are in India; a transport scheme, including alternative solutions on cargo transportation through Iran, has been prepared. Test launch of the container train on the Bandar Abbas-Moscow route will reveal possible issues and bottlenecks of the transportation via this route,” he said.
“Following the train’s run, we believe it will be possible to generate proposals regarding unified conditions of customs clearance of goods, terms, cost of delivery, as well as terms of transit passage of cargo via the International North-South Transport Corridor through the territory of Azerbaijan,” Misharin said.
Deputy Head of Azerbaijan Railways Igbal Huseynov said that a new multi-modal route which includes the use of marine, rail and road transport, will make it possible to reduce the delivery time of goods from India to Russia from 40 to 14 days, and the test train will deliver the goods to Moscow on a particular tariff agreed by the participants of the corridor.
The process of implementation of the project won’t encounter any obstacles also because the key issue of such projects, i.e. their funding, has been solved.
In particular, the section of the Rasht-Astara railway will be constructed under the joint cooperation of Azerbaijani and Iranian companies, and the two countries will invest in this project. It is expected that the document on this cooperation will be discussed at a meeting in Baku, which will become the beginning of a new stage of implementation.
Azerbaijan agreed to allocate $500 million for this project. The agreement regarding this was reached, and a specially created working group is holding talks on the details.
It is obvious that all the three sides attach great importance to the North-South project, which is important for them, and the work on which is currently being carried out rapidly. The summit of heads of the three countries will become a catalyst for the project’s implementation to be further accelerated.
Maksim Tsurkov is Trend Agency’s staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @MaksimTsurkov