The historic trilateral summit of the heads of state of Azerbaijan, Iran, and Russia on Aug. 8 at Baku has decided that the three countries that border the western shore of the Caspian Sea, will finish building the International North-South Transport Corridor, Russia & India Report (RIR) wrote Thursday. Speaking to RIR, Iran’s Ambassador to Baku Mohsen Pakayin called the transport corridor the “project of the century” and said Iran and Azerbaijan would share the $1 billion needed to complete the project.
On the project itself, Pakayin said the railroad between Rasht, Iran, and Astara, Azerbaijan, is the major missing rail link to complete the corridor, in addition to the Qazvin-Rasht rail connection within Iran. The Qazvin-Rasht rail connection is about 93% complete and is expected to be finished by the end of this year, Pakayin said. He also said the Czech Republic and Hungary have showed their willingness as well to participate in the construction of the Rasht-Astara railroad section. There is a good reason why these East European nations are keen to see the corridor operational: The corridor will provide a direct rail link from the Persian Gulf to Europe and the expected amount of cargo that will move through this corridor will be 10 million tons, RIR said.
Dmitry Abzalov, president of the Center for Strategic Communications in Russia, told the RIR that “it is likely that China, rather than Iran or Russia, may become the primary beneficiary of the project.” “If China sees that this highway is the most convenient and fastest way to the European market, Chinese exporters will turn the ‘North-South’ corridor into a part of the Silk Road,” he said. China’s “Silk Road” projects involve a number of corridors to Europe. One such is through Kazakhstan and the Caspian Sea into Turkey. The same route can have a variation availing the International North-South Corridor to move north to reach Europe through Russia.