Baku. 2 November. REPORT.AZ/ Presidents of Azerbaijan, Russia and Iran have held the next trilateral meeting in Tehran after one year and three months. The first such meeting was held in Baku on August 8, 2016. Presidents Ilham Aliyev, Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani discussed cooperation in the field of infrastructure and energy projects in the summit. At the end of the summit leaders signed a joint declaration. The document features the main directions of future cooperation. The negotiations in such format are held for the second time. The leaders of three countries convened in Baku the first time by the initiative of President Ilham Aliyev in August 2016. In addition to trilateral meeting between Presidents of Azerbaijan, Russia and Iran, there was also bilateral meeting between Ilham Aliyev and Vladimir Putin. The western branch of the North-South transport corridor was discussed in the meeting.
North-South international transport corridor will connect India, Oman, Iran, Caspian basin states, Russia, Baltic states, Northern and Western European countries.
The main freight transportations will be carried out runing along the Northern and Western Europe flowing along railway line between Buslovskaya - St. Petersburg - Moscow - Ryazan - Kochetovka – Rtishevo - Saratov - Volgograd - Astrakhan and then using three main routes it will get access to Iran's railway network:
1) Trans-Caspian: via the ports of Astrakhan, Olya and Makhachkala then continues to Iranian ports of Amirabad, Anzali and Nowshahr
2) Eastern branch line: a direct rail link through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan with access to Iran's railway network
3) Western branch line: passing through Astrakhan – Makhachkala – Samur, then through Azerbaijan with access to Iran via the Astara border station connecting the railways of Azerbaijan and Iran through Astara (Azerbaijan)-Astara (Iran)-Rasht-Gazvin railway route.
In the first stage, 3 million tons of cargo per year will be transported through Azerbaijani section of North-South international transport corridor with further expansion in the volumes of transportation up to 15 million tons. In this regard the project serves the interests of three countries.
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev in the trilateral meeting in Tehran said that trilateral cooperation in transport section brings positive results: “This year Azerbaijan has constructed the its railway till Iranian border. We also built and opened 82-meter-long railway bridge over Astarachay river. Moreover, the Azerbaijani side has rented 35 hectares of land in the territory of Iran for long period in order to construct 1.4 kilometers of road and terminals. The railway transportation tariffs between three countries have been agreed this year. Therefore, railway road from Azerbaijani-Russian border to Azerbaijani-Iranian border is fully ready for operation. This road is an important part of North-South transport corridor. At the same time Azerbaijan is ready to partake in financing of Astara-Rasht railway’s construction. Recently negotiations with Iranian side on 500-million-dollar loan agreement for construction of the Rasht-Astara railway and provision with equipment were already successfully completed this year. Next year modern highway from Baku to Iranian border will be put into service. The construction of the last section of Baku-Russia border highway will be completed in a high level quality next year. Therefore, construction process of North-South transport corridor’s Azerbaijani section is approaching to the last stage. North-South transport corridor plays very important role for many countries.”
This format can also be regarded very important in terms of signing the Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea.
U.S president Donald Trump often gives statement to revoke Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed in 2015 between Iran and six countries. Presidents of Russia and Iran during bilateral meeting also discussed the nuclear program of Iran. Presidents also discussed the settlement of Nagorno Karabakh conflict during the trilateral meeting. President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said that today restoration of international legal norms in the world is one of the important issues on agenda: “Unfortunately, in many cases these norms don’t work and seriously violated. Armenian-Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is clear example of that. For more than 20 years, Armenia has been keeping under occupation Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding seven districts that are ancestral lands, an integral part of Azerbaijan. In the occupied lands, the population of Azerbaijan was subjected to the policy of ethnic cleansing, one million of our compatriots became refugees and IDPs.”
The economic-trade ties between three countries illustrates the high level of mutual relations. The ambassador of Iran to Azerbaijan Javad Jahangirzade said that in the past eight months of the current year the volume of trade turnover between Iran and Azerbaijan reached 400 million dollars. He told Iranian businessmen that through Azerbaijan they can get access to the markets of third countries: “Azerbaijan has good transit capacity.”
Azerbaijan and Russia have signed over 170 documents, 50 of them related to economic field.
Azerbaijan has invested in Russian economy $ 1 billion, Russia’s investments in Azerbaijan amount $ 3 billion up to now.
Up to 700 Russian companies operate in Azerbaijan. The trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Russia increased by 10.5% to 2 billion dollars in 2016. The trade turnover between Russia and Iran was over $ 2 billion 184 million, which is up 70.54% as compared in 2016. The rise was caused by softening of sanctions imposed against Iran.
The trilateral meeting that took place following the inauguration of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Iron “Silk Way route” demonstrates the importance of Azerbaijan for the region. It also proves that Baku complies with principle of peaceful living. By partaking in North-South transport corridor project Azerbaijan proved that it is an important partner on international arena.
Armenia once again remains in a losing position by staying outside the implemented projects in the region. Armenian media writes that the trilateral meeting of Iran-Armenia-Russia still beyond their reach. Armenia also searches for foreign investor to fund the construction of railway between Armenia and Iran. Though the project was approved by Armenian government in August 7, 2014 nothing has been done so far. According to preliminary calculations the value of the project is 3.5 billion dollars.
It is not beneficial to make investments for such projects in Armenia. Because apart from two states, it is impossible for other countries to use the railway. Construction of this road is only political advantage for Iran. For this reason, the project has never been implemented.
The trilateral meeting of presidents of Iran, Armenia, Russia most probably will remain dream for Armenian society. Because de facto in all fields Russia represents interests of Armenia. Iran is aware of this country’s essence and benefits from situation as a card in political games with regional states.
Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway route, North-South transport corridor project prove that Azerbaijan successfully continues to play its historical connection role. The main factor that hinders expanding the capabilities of Azerbaijan is occupation of Nagorno Karabakh conflict. Neighboring Russia and Iran can play a great role in liberation of these territories.
Unfortunately, neither regional states, nor countries benefiting from assistance of Azerbaijan in ensuring their interests in the region, took any steps for liberation of Azerbaijani lands from occupation.
It looks less likely that after meeting Tehran and Moscow will make pressure on aggressor in this direction. That’s why it can be suggested that the meeting will speed up the implementation of projects as part of North-South transport corridor. The summit of presidents can also be a message for states that have interests in the region. In any cases such meetings help to settle the problems between sides through talks. Let’s hope so.