Iran plans to import Ukrainian grain via Azerbaijan

By Sara Rajabova

Azerbaijan’s southern neighbor Iran has voiced intention to import grain from Ukraine through Georgia and Azerbaijan. The country plans to purchase grain in an exchange of oil products.

Chairman of Azerbaijani Railways CJSC Javid Gurbanov told reporters on December 30 that Iranians have launched construction of the needed two-kilometer stretch of railway to the port of Amirabad in the Caspian Sea.

“Together with the Iranian and Georgian sides we have agreed to coordinate efforts for the construction of the railway route in two standards (1520 and 1435 millimeters) that allow us to transport cargo from the port of Amirabad to Baku International Port not only by the sea but also by rail,” Gurbanov said.

Reminding that Iran doesn’t produce grain, but instead buys it from Kazakhstan and Ukraine, Gurbanov said in the first stage Iran intends to purchase 2-3 million tons of grain a year from Ukrainian ports of Odessa and Ilichevsk, delivering it through Georgia and Azerbaijan, by both the North-South corridor and the Caspian Sea.

He added that it is planned to supply fuel oil, bitumen and other petroleum products in the opposite direction.

Azerbaijan has recently turned into the important transit country with increasing trade transactions between the neighboring countries. The neighboring countries frequently use the territory of Azerbaijan, which has built the required infrastructure over the years.

The North-South railway is expected to serve as a bridge to connect the railways of Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia. This project envisages the establishment of a border railway bridge between Iranian Astara and Azerbaijani Astara, as well as laying an 8-kilometer-long segment on Azerbaijani territory.

The railway’s capacity will stand at 1.4 million passengers and 5-7 million metric tons of cargo per year, according to the preliminary estimations. As many as 22 tunnels and 15 bridges will be built throughout the railway.

The volume of cargo transportation through the corridor will amount to 6 million metric tons at the initial stage and will reach 15-20 million metric tons in the future. The North-South railway project is expected to bring great profits to Azerbaijan and Iran. The railway lines of the two countries will be linked before late 2016.

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Sara Rajabova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @SaraRajabova

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