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Azerbaijan's Position Allows to Expand North-South Route

Azerbaijan’s Position Allows to Expand North-South Route

Azerbaijan’s geographic location will allow expanding the North-South international transport route to the West.

This was stated by Economy and Industry Minister Shahin Mustafayev last week. Speaking to local media, the minister said that the North-South transport route will make it possible to realize cargo transportation to Pakistan, India, Central Asian and Northern European countries through the territories of Azerbaijan, Russia and Iran.

“I would like to mention one more feature of the project: Azerbaijan will get an access to the Black Sea by a railway through Georgia. Moreover, thanks to the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project, a way is open to other [transport] routes of Turkey. Thus, it is appropriate to speak not about the North-South route, but about the South-West route. The North-South route intersects with other international transport corridors; therefore, it is a very important project for us,” he noted.

The North-South railway, with a length of 8.5 kilometers, is expected to serve as a bridge to connect the railways of Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia as well. The construction of Iranian portion of the North-South railway, which is a part of the North-South corridor, will become an important step towards the realization of the North-South project. Its construction will be completed by the end of 2016.

The North-South corridor, from India to Helsinki, with a length of 5,000 kilometers is designed to carry more than 20 million tons per year. It is a multimodal route for transportation of passengers and cargo from Russia’s St. Petersburg to the Mumbai port. It is designed to carry transit cargo from India, Iran and other Persian Gulf countries to the territory of Russia (the Caspian Sea) and further – to Northern and Western Europe.

Speaking about the progress of works within the North-South route, Mustafayev said that Azerbaijan will complete the construction of a part of the railway to the Astara River with a length of 8.3 kilometers by late 2016, and then, Azerbaijan and Iran will jointly build a bridge across the river. Iran will also construct a railway with a length of just over two kilometers in its territory, and the two countries will complete the construction of cargo terminals.

“We were informed that Iran has already completed more than 80 percent of the work on the construction of the Qazvin-Rasht railway. Various countries have expressed interest in this project. For example, we will hold negotiations [on the North-South route] with Russia in March-April [2016]. Azerbaijan also intends to actively participate in the implementation of this project, because it is strategically important not only for us, but also for Iran, Russia, and the Northern European countries,” he stated.

Mustafayev went on to add that funds for the realization of the first stage of the project are provided in the 2016-state budget, so Azerbaijan will have no problems with its financing. He believes that Iran will also fulfill its obligations. The North-South route enjoys several advantages compared to other transport corridors, according to the minister.

“The North-South route, which passes through Azerbaijan, is more profitable for each parameter [time, the number of procedures, etc.] than other alternative routes, such as the Suez Canal-the Mediterranean Sea-Northern Europe and the Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan-Russia-Northern Europe routes. The advantages of our project are obvious,” he said.

This project is expected to bring huge benefits to the Azerbaijani budget.

“Revenues will depend on the volume of cargo transportation. Initially, the volume of cargo traffic through Azerbaijan will be about 5-7 million tons [per year]. But of course, these volumes will increase many fold in the future. I think we can talk about tens of millions of tons in the future,” Mustafayev concluded.