By Abdul Kerimkhanov
Following the 11th meeting of the Belarusian-Azerbaijani intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation, Belarusian Railways and the Azerbaijan Railways CJSC signed an agreement on mutually beneficial cooperation.
Head of Belarusian Railway Vladimir Morozov said that the interaction of the railways of the two countries is of traditional nature and the new agreement was signed not only to formalize the existing cooperation, but also to give it a new impetus, BeLta reported.
Morozov explained that this agreement creates the most comfortable, sustainable transport links between Belarus and Azerbaijan.
"What is especially important is the development of the North-South corridor, the creation of conditions for the movement of goods from India, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia and Belarus. The agreement involves the creation of working groups on tariff and technological spheres. Around 96 percent of goods in trade between two countries are moving by rail. We are interested in having as many of them as possible. This requires fair tariffs, good logistics services and rolling stock, as well as the efficient work of the two railway administrations. The lion's share of the transit corridor runs through the Russian Federation. We work with partners so that tariff and technology policies are agreed," he said.
International Transport Corridor (ITC) "North-South" is a multimodal route for transporting passengers and goods from St. Petersburg (Russia) to the port of Mumbai (India).
The idea of the North-South transport corridor appeared in 1993. However, only on September 12, 2000, Russia, Iran and India signed a corresponding agreement, which was ratified in 2002. Azerbaijan joined the project in 2005.
The implementation of the idea has stalled due to Western sanctions against Iran. With the lifting of sanctions against Tehran in January 2016, the project again acquired its relevance.
The length of the international transport corridor "North-South" is more than 7,000 kilometers.
A significant part of the North-South corridor runs along the Russian railways, which, depending on the route, account for 33-53 percentage of the total length of the land part of the corridor.
The INSTC in its southern part involves several routes for the passage of goods using rail transport:
Trans-Caspian route implies using of the Russian sea ports of Astrakhan, Olya, Makhachkala and the ports of Iran - Bender-Enzeli, Nowshehr and Bender-Amirabad.
The western branch of the corridor is a direct rail link through the Samur (Russia) -Yalama (Azerbaijan) border crossings with further access to the Iranian railway network via the Astara (Azerbaijan) - Astara border (Iran).
The eastern branch of the corridor is a direct rail link through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan with access to the Iranian railway network through the border crossings Sarakhs (Turkmenistan) - Sarakhs (Iran) and Akyaila (Turkmenistan) - Inche Burun (Iran).
Currently, these routes are mainly destined for Russia's export cargo to Azerbaijan and Iran.
The main advantage of the North-South corridor over other routes is a reduction of two or more times the distance of transportation, as well as a reduction in the cost of transporting containers compared to the cost of transportation along the sea route.
Rasht-Astara (Iran) - Astara railway (Azerbaijan) has great importance for the project, which is the last link of the direct railway route along the western branch of the North-South.
Abdul Kerimkhanov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @AbdulKerim94
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