Azerbaijan and Iran are set to boost the bilateral relations in all fields, and top officials’ reciprocal visits are of significant importance for realizing these plans.
Given the importance of such visits, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani can visit Azerbaijan during this year, Ambassador Mohsen Pak Ayeen said at a press conference on February 25. He told journalists that significant development will be observed in Iranian-Azerbaijani relations in the first six months of 2016.
President Ilham Aliyev was on a one-day official visit in Tehran on February 23, during which the two strategic partners signed 11 documents. President Aliyev also invited his Iranian counterpart to visit Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan and Iran, the two neighboring countries with historically close links, enjoy significant prospects for further developing cooperation in various sectors. The two countries eye abolishing visa regime for boosting economy and tourism.
“We assume that by late 2016, the visa issue will be settled after installation of technical equipment at the border crossing points,” Pak Ayeen said adding that the visa abolition is projected to cover all Iranians, regardless of the type of the visa issued.
The transportation sector is one of the main areas of cooperation between Azerbaijan and Iran. In recent years, Azerbaijan and Iran have become very important partners of the North-South transport corridor.
Iran, located in the Middle East region, has land borders with the South Asian, Central Asian, and Middle East countries, with access to the Gulf and Indian Ocean, while Azerbaijan, in the cradle of the Caspian Sea, is settled in between the West and East.
Taking into account the importance and profitability of cooperation in the transport sector, Azerbaijan and Iran signed a document to connect Iran’s Astara and Azerbaijan’s Astara border checkpoints, as part of the North-South railway. Pak Ayeen said a bridge is set to be constructed in Astara, jointly between Iran and Azerbaijan on a 50-50 share basis.
Materials have been delivered for a 30-km section of the Qazvin-Rasht railway (a part of North-South international corridor inside Iran) and a tender has been held for construction the Rasht-Anzali-Astara line.
“Several companies from China, Azerbaijan and Russia are ready to take part in the Qazvin-Rasht railway project, but it is not finalized yet,” he added.
Iran, which has recently made great achievements in the health field, is interested in establishing an enterprise for medicine production in Azerbaijan. Pak Ayeen said Iran will establish an enterprise for medicine production in Sumgayit Chemical-Industrial Park, which will consist of three stages.
“In the first stage, necessary medicines will be imported to Azerbaijan from Iran, while in the second stage, Iran will provide Azerbaijan with the technology necessary for the production of drugs. As part of the third stage, production of medicines will be started,” he noted.
The implementation of these three stages will take around 3-5 years, the diplomat said adding that experts from Iran will visit Azerbaijan next week for talks on the establishment of the facility.
Developing pharmaceutical manufacturing in Azerbaijan may become one of major directions in the country’s aim to diversify its non-oil sector of the economy. The government is keen to cooperate with foreign companies in this sector. The modern Iranian pharmaceutical system in the country commenced 100 years ago. It experienced a sharp growth last year, rising to $1.2 billion.
Azerbaijan and Iran, the two Caspian littoral countries rich in hydrocarbon resources, have been strengthening ties since the removal of international sanctions against Tehran in January. This is more obvious especially in the energy sector. The two countries are expected to intensify energy cooperation significantly strengthened after SOCAR’s signing two memorandums of understanding with National Iranian Oil Company and Ghadir Investment Company as part of President Ilham Aliyev’s Tehran visit.
Pak Ayeen said Ghadir Investment Company and Azerbaijan’s state energy giant SOCAR will jointly put investment in oil and gas projects. Iran and Azerbaijan also achieved a breakthrough in this sector after signing a framework agreement on the sale of electric power, which envisages cooperation in the field of use of energy and water resources, construction and operation of Khoda Afarin and Qiz Qalasi hydroelectric power plants and hydroelectric complexes on the Araz River.
“Within the next six months, we will see major developments about Khoda Afarin. The sides will first construct a dam, and then construction of the power plant will start,” Pak Ayeen explained.
The ambassador also expressed confidence that relations between the bank sectors of Azerbaijan and Iran will be extended in the near future.