Caspian states vow for better transportation options

By Nigar Orujova

The Caspian littoral states will cooperate closely to achieve better transportation profits following a meeting of the transport ministers in Iran.

The ministers of five countries – Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan – have outlined steps to enhance cooperation in the region with adopting a final declaration.

The final statement called for launching passenger ships among regional sates, stressed the need to modernize existing infrastructures for air, sea, land and railway transport and launch multimodal passenger services among the littoral countries.

Other decisions of the ministerial meeting included establishment of logistical centers and strengthening and expansion of combination transportation, increasing the facilities for transiting goods and fortifying economic regional cooperation in the Caspian Sea area.

In addition, the conference decided to boost scientific and academic cooperation among the member states.

The littoral states that have longstanding ties under current situation in the world should contribute to the development of multimodal transportation in the region.

Located in the advantageous geographic position, the Caspian Sea can promote the importance of the countries surrounding it.

All five Caspian Sea littoral countries stressed the need for facilitating visa issuance for drivers and visitors, Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akoundi said at the end of the meeting, IRNA reports.

Akhoundi believes the littoral states with annual trade exchanges of $600 billion and gross domestic products of over four billion dollars should be transformed to a powerful economic bloc.

He also proposed the establishment of joint fund and modifying transit and customs tariffs and removal of physical and non-physical obstacles in the way of boosting cooperation among the Caspian states.

Another issue discussed at the event was development of multimodal transportation, promoting the Rasht-Astara-Moscow corridor and increasing transit of goods in eastern side of the Caspian Sea for broadening transport cooperation among five states.

For its part, the Russian Transport Ministry also proposed to remove restrictions on the number and destinations of flights between the Caspian countries.

Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said: “We affirm the appropriateness of further liberalization of air traffic between the two Caspian countries, lifting of restrictions on the number of airlines and flights, and expanding the geography of flights with emphasis on our border areas.”

Azerbaijani Transport Minister Ziya Mammadov spoke about work carried out in transport and freight transportation sphere in the country.

“Coordination Council was established to make Azerbaijan more attractive for transit and all the relevant structures had been instructed to apply the competitive tariffs for railway transportation and other transportation routes,” he explained.

Today, the Caspian countries are holding a series of talks on the development of transport cooperation, the major of which is the international transport corridor North-South, where Azerbaijan plays a leading part.

The North-South Corridor, originating in India and stretching to Helsinki, is one of the most important routes for the region. The corridor, stretching for about 5,000 km, at the initial stage will be able to transport 6 million tons of cargo per year, while 15-20 million tons of cargo in the future.

Earlier, Azerbaijan and Iran have reached an agreement to finalize the first phase of the project to create the North-South railway corridor before late 2016.

The North-South railway will link Northern Europe with South-Eastern Asia. It will serve as a link between the railways of Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia.