Iran’s Roads and Urban Development Minister Mehrdad Bazrpash met with Azerbaijan’s Deputy Prime Minster Shahin Mustafayev on Friday (October 6) to discuss bilateral coordination and the development of transport routes, water and energy programs.
The meetings are significant as it means that the controversial Azerbaijan annexation of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region from Armenia is effectively over, and that redevelopment of the region will now take place. Doing so opens up an eastern trade corridor that will stretch from Russia to Iran.
Mustafayev and Bazrpash discussed current issues on the bilateral agenda concerning transport and communications, and use of energy and water resources between Azerbaijan and Iran, the Azerbaijani government said.
The sides gave instructions to their agencies on completing the construction of the Astara cargo terminal as soon as possible. Astara is on the Iranian border with Azerbaijan however was leased to Azerbaijan for 25 years. It is intended to be a major hub for the facilitation of trade along the INSTC and is a key hub for the route as it accesses Iran and links to its ports on the Persian Gulf. The development calls for handling 5 million tons of cargo per annum.
This will provide a direct railway to the North and the Persian Gulf and back. It will be easy to transport cargo by Iranian railways from the Persian Gulf port of Bandar Abbas to Northern Europe, Russia and the Black Sea through Azerbaijan and in the opposite direction. It will become a major Caspian Sea port and includes a Special Economic Zone. It is already partially operational with direct shipping to Kazakhstan’s Aktau port and to Astrakhan in Russia.
The two governments have also made hydroelectric plans, with a statement issued saying “The meeting participants noted the importance of accelerating work toward completing the projects for constructing the Khudaferin, Giz Galasi and the Ordubad-Marazad hydroelectric power plants.”
The sides signed several documents, including a letter of intent on construction of a new railway line and rail bridges to connect the East Zangezur economic area and Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, using Iranian territory as a transport corridor to link the two regions.
This includes the construction of a road bridge on the border and a pedestrian passage across the Araz River at the Azerbaijani-Iranian border crossing points Agbend (Azerbaijan) and Kelale (Iran).
The INSTC route links north-south between Russia and Iran, and east-west between China and Europe. Azerbaijan is the focal point where the two intersect. The Iranian connection facilitates trade south across Iran to the Persian Gulf and further distribution to the Middle East, East Africa, and South Asia, including India’s west coast ports.
By Chris Devonshire-Ellis
Edited by Yehya Aoun