The railway from Astara, Iran to Astara, Azerbaijan will be officially launched this March. The 10 km long road is part of the "North-South" project, which, in fact, facilitates the integration of the railway systems of Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran. According to expert Anar Rzayev, the "North-South" corridor is an alternative to the southern transport route.
“The market itself is estimated at about 26-30 million tons of cargo, which significantly increases the throughput capacity of the corridor itself. In other words, with the use of cargo it will create a quite large commodity flow as well as cash flow. In the monetary equivalent, the passage of a cargo transporter through Astara from a Russian border may amount up to $500. That is, there is an ongoing struggle between countries and groups of countries over this large market of services and cash flow, which could significantly exceed cash flows from the sales of oil,” said Director of UNEC International School, PhD in Economics Anar Rzayev.
Baku, Moscow and Tehran are currently in active talks regarding the launch of passenger trains en route from the Azerbaijani city of Astara to Moscow. According to leading analyst of the Russian Agency for Political and Economic Communications Mikhail Neizhmakov, for Russia, the North-South corridor is a long-term strategic project. In particular, Moscow has made tremendous efforts to support meetings in the Russia-Azerbaijan-Iran format and to get other countries involved in the project.
“The advantage for Russia is the opportunity to access prospective projects in Iran at a time when definitely not all major Western economic players are capable of and ready to access them, being aware of the increasing pressure of the Trump administration on Iran. As for the relations between Moscow and Baku, undoubtedly, any joint projects strengthen such interaction, and joint economic interests that are the basis for political cooperation emerge. Therefore, such interaction as part of the Moscow-Baku-Tehran format draws Russia and Azerbaijan closer as well,” said Mikhail Neizhmakov, leading analyst of the Agency for Political and Economic Communications.
According to Assistant to the President of the International Eurasia Press Fund (IEPF) Anastasia Lavrina, the implementation of this railway link will contribute to further strengthening of economic cooperation between Baku and Tehran. Anastasia Lavrina concluded that Iran is finding alternatives for ensuring outlets to the European and Russian markets through the territory of Azerbaijan.
“The successful implementation of the Astara-Astara railway project is also of quite great importance for Iran itself, because whereas Iran used to foresee Armenia’s potential deliveries of its goods to European markets, apparently, now Iran understands that Azerbaijan is more economically viable and stable,” Anastasia Lavrina said.
Thus, a new promising cooperation platform is being formed in the region, involving Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia, which is strengthened by the summits of the three countries’ presidents held from time to time. The project, in which Azerbaijan plays a central role, further emphasizes the political and economic isolation of Armenia.
“In fact, Armenia has already become a geo-economic outcast in the region and cannot participate in any projects. Speaking in a geo-economist’s language, one can say that Armenia is nowhere. That is, consistently, Azerbaijan isolates Armenia from all these projects and actually puts it aside from the geo-economic map of Eurasia,” Director of UNEC International School Anar Rzayev said.
“Such an isolation lets the very population of Armenia know that the policy pursued by their government will not lead to either economic development of the country nor political stability at home. This could spark more intensive migration of the Armenian population to Europe, the U.S., other countries where they see more prospects,” Assistant to President of International Eurasia Press Fund Anastasia Lavrina said.
For Armenia, this state of affairs reveals the erroneousness of Yerevan’s policy on the Karabakh issue. The policy, based on the maintenance of the status quo, is irrational, because even citizens of Armenia understand perfectly well the bitter consequences of the economic isolation. The unresolved status of the Karabakh conflict and the borders’ being closed is stifling the Armenian economy, depriving it of resources for development. Armenian authorities should strive toward effectiveness in their policy not by delaying the negotiation process, but by trying to reach the soonest settlement of the conflict based on rational accords.