Trend’s exclusive interview with Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Iran to Azerbaijan, Seyyed Abbas Mousavi
- How do you assess the participation of Iranian companies in the liberated territories of Azerbaijan and the steps taken in this area so far?
The Islamic Republic of Iran, as a close neighbor of Azerbaijan, has a number of opportunities and can assist the state and people of Azerbaijan in the restoration of Karabakh. The Iranian people and state rejoice for the liberation of Azerbaijani territories and the new conditions in the region. Also, the Iranian state and people are interested in the rapid revival of the region. The high-ranking Azerbaijani officials, especially president Ilham Aliyev, have invited friendly countries, including Iran, to participate in the restoration of the liberated territories. Based on this, the Iranian state has declared its readiness to restore Karabakh. At present, the Iranian side is waiting for the Azerbaijan state to declare its master plans for the liberated territories.
The participation of Iranian companies in the restoration work can be considered expedient in several respects.
Geographically, these areas are located near the Iranian border with Azerbaijan. Iran's construction materials and raw materials are cheaper than in other countries, as well as the costs of the workforce are also cheaper. Most importantly, Iran is interested in the restoration of these territories.
At the same time, it is important to clear these areas of mines and unexploded ordnance before starting restoration work. Iran's Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics and its subsidiaries are ready to come to the liberated territories and participate in the clearing of the territories. As part of humanism, these companies are ready to clear a part of the territories of mines without any costs and the other parts under a contract.
After this, in what form the relations between Azerbaijan and Iran in various spheres, including political, economic, trade, and cultural, are planned to be developed?
The Azerbaijan-Iran relations have entered a new stage – a stage of prosperity. Both countries can increase cooperation in all areas, including political, economic, trade, cultural and military. At present, the priority is to participate in the restoration of the liberated territories and increase economic relations between the two countries. In my opinion, the relations between the two countries will become a strategic partnership in the near future. So, the two countries can take advantage of each other's opportunities. In this direction, especially transit and transport opportunities can be used. The relations between the two countries can serve as a model for regional cooperation. There have always been great relations between the two friendly and neighboring countries in all directions. In recent years, the relations between Azerbaijan and Iran have been developing steadily. Around Iran, 15 countries are considered neighboring countries. Each country has its own place. However, Azerbaijan is one of the priority and important countries among these countries.
- What is the level of progress of preferential trade, joint agriculture, energy, and water projects between the two countries?
The 14th meeting of the Azerbaijan-Iran Intergovernmental Economic Commission on the economic, trade, and humanitarian cooperation was held in Tehran on January 18. A document was signed at the meeting for the development of cooperation in various areas. Certain agreements have been reached between the two countries on the implementation of joint projects. Iran and Azerbaijan have reached agreements on several unresolved issues, including the Khudafarin and Gizgalasi hydro junctions. If these hydro junctions are launched, both countries will have an advantage in terms of water resources, agriculture and electricity areas. These hydro junctions are important for the water supplying and electricity supplying of the liberated territories. These hydro junctions are estimated to be launched within the next year.
The last discussions on preferential trade between the two countries were conducted last week. A document on this is expected to be signed soon.
The bridge between Iran and Azerbaijan over the Astarachay, which is currently in use, was built during World War II. However, a large number of goods are transported through this bridge. Due to the increase in Iran's exports and transit of goods in recent months, this bridge is being used to the maximum. At present, about 200-300 trucks pass through this bridge per day. One of the important projects between the two countries is the construction of a new road bridge over the Astarachay. So, the citizens, cars, and trucks will be able to use this bridge. After the signing of the contract as soon as possible, the foundation of the bridge will be laid and construction work will be launched till the Novruz holiday. The bridge will be built jointly by the two countries and will cost about $4-5 million, according to preliminary estimates. This small bridge will play a major role in the North-South Corridor. Azerbaijan is a strategic and important center on international cargo transportation, especially in the North-South Corridor.
- Recently, the Iranian Foreign Minister has focused on the importance of connecting Iran's railway lines to Azerbaijan. What steps are planned to be taken in this regard?
Iran is very interested in diversifying relations with Azerbaijan. At present, Iran has road, rail, and sea links with Azerbaijan. It is necessary to diversify these routes to increase trade turnover between the two countries. In this regard, the Azerbaijani railway line is connected to the Astara railway terminal in the Astara County of Iran and this railway line is used. The terminal operates along with under the construction. Recently, the construction of the railway terminal has been accelerated. Currently, one of the most important issues for Iran is the construction of the Rasht-Astara railway. With the launch of this railway, goods will be transported from the Persian Gulf to Russia and Eastern Europe and vice versa.
Another important railway project for Iran is the merging of railway lines of 6 countries within the framework of the proposal of the President of Azerbaijan on six-party cooperation. Iran immediately supported the proposal. This issue was also in the focus of attention during the visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the regional countries. The launch of this railway line will have a positive impact on the economic development of the region. All this will create conditions for stability and sustainable security in the region. Iran believes that after the Karabakh war, countries can move more towards cooperation. Thus, the economies of the countries can unite and prosper. Iran is in favor of bringing the positions of the six countries closer. In this regard, Iran is ready to hold a meeting in Tehran with the participation of officials at any level to resolve disputes between the two countries. Because Iran believes that the region can be stronger.
- How do you assess Iran's economic and trade relations with the Caspian states?
The establishment of communication routes between neighboring countries (sea, road, and railway) is very important for Iran. Therefore, Iran seeks to develop relations between the five Caspian littoral states to the maximum. Iran is cooperating in this direction both bilaterally and multilaterally. At present, cargo transportation between the Azerbaijani ports of Alat and Hovsan and the Iranian ports is being carried out.
Given the weakening of the economies of countries as a result of the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, increasing the activities of ports is the focus of Iran.
- What potentials are planned to be developed on new cooperation areas between Iran and Georgia?
Iran attaches importance to relations with Georgia. Recently, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also visited Georgia as part of his visit to the regional countries in connection with the platform proposed by the President of Azerbaijan. During the coronavirus pandemic, there were several problems in the transit of Iranian products. But in recent weeks, these problems have been eliminated. At present, Iranian trucks can enter Georgia via Azerbaijan.
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