Trend’s exclusive interview with Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Iran to Azerbaijan, Seyyed Abbas Mousavi
Mr. Ambassador, we would like to know your views on the potential of economic cooperation between Azerbaijan and Iran.
I am very glad that my first interview with the Azerbaijani media was with Trend news agency during my short tenure as Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Baku.
Undoubtedly, there are many historical, geographical, cultural, and religious partnerships between the friendly and brotherly peoples of Iran and Azerbaijan. That’s it made me feel no strangeness in this beautiful country and consider it my second home. I can say that there are no other two countries in the world that are so close to each other. Such valuable partnerships have created great potential for the development of bilateral cooperation in all areas, especially in the economic sphere.
However, in my opinion, the potential for the development of economic relations has not been used enough. That is, these relations have not developed in parallel with the existing positive political relations. That is why one of my main goals as ambassador is to work for the further development of economic relations between Iran and Azerbaijan. Of course, before me, the staff of the Iranian Embassy to Azerbaijan has implemented important joint projects to strengthen economic relations between the two countries, and steps have been taken forward in this direction. Therefore, I thank everyone who contributed, especially the previous ambassadors.
I would like to note that when presenting my credentials to President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, he touched upon the importance of Iran in economic relations, recalling the joint projects, for speedy implementation of which he stressed the importance of cooperation between the officials of the two countries. For this reason, taking into account the attention and strong political will of heads of both states in the direction of maximum development of bilateral economic relations, my and my dear friend's, the Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Iran, Bunyad Huseynov's, responsibility will increase to achieve the set goals.
What is the level of trade relations between Iran and Azerbaijan and trade turnover between the two countries? What steps are planned to increase the level of trade turnover?
As I mentioned, the trade turnover between the two countries is currently not at a reasonable level and is about $500 million a year. This is much lower than estimated. In my opinion, it is possible to increase trade turnover to $5 billion a year with close cooperation and the implementation of additional joint projects. Of course, the global spread of coronavirus infection over the past 7-8 months has led to a decline in trade between the two countries. I hope that the shortcomings will be eliminated based on well-thought-out steps and timelines. That is why we will try to eliminate possible problems and obstacles in the coming weeks, with the help and consultation of various economic sectors of Azerbaijan.
What is the current level of work on the North-South International Transport Corridor and what steps have been taken to speed up construction?
As known, the North-South International Transport Corridor is one of the most important regional and global corridors. On the one hand, this corridor connects the railway network of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Azerbaijan Republic on the other hand it is an infrastructure that allows for a wide range of cargo transportation from India to Russia and even from East Asia to Europe. This corridor is one of the main projects on the agenda of Iran and Azerbaijan, as it is one of the most profitable and safe transit routes.
Currently, several steps are being taken to speed up the implementation of this project. These include the construction of the Rasht-Astara railway in the Gilan Province (northern Iran), the construction of a railway terminal in Iran’s Astara district, as well as the construction of 5 bridges over the border rivers of the two countries.
Although the implementation of these projects has been postponed for several months due to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, construction will resume soon with the agreements and consultations. The goods are transported from the Persian Gulf to the Astara railway terminal and back via trucks and railway. At the same time, I express my deep gratitude to the Azerbaijani officials who facilitated the transit of products during the first difficult periods of the pandemic.
What joint projects are being implemented or planned to be implemented in the neighboring provinces of Iran with Azerbaijan?
Before visiting Azerbaijan as an ambassador, I got acquainted with 4 provinces of Iran on the border with Azerbaijan. The construction of a railway terminal in Iran's Astara district is one of the border projects between the two countries. Of course, work in this direction must be accelerated. There is a plan to establish a joint industrial park between the Parsabad County of Ardabil Province (northwestern Iran) and the Imishli district of Azerbaijan. This plan is being studied by the technical committees of both countries for the regulation and signing of the final memorandum.
Also, the construction of a road bridge over the Astarachay and the connection of Iran’s Ardabil railway to the Azerbaijan railway network are among the projects on the agenda of the two countries. I hope that we will soon see progress in this regard.
How do you assess bilateral cooperation in the post-pandemic period?
Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has seriously affected the economic relations not only of Iran and Azerbaijan but also in most countries around the world and resulted in a decline in economic development. To reduce the negative impact of the coronavirus on trade relations between the two countries, several meetings were held between high-ranking officials of Iran and Azerbaijan via videoconference in recent months and ways were researched to prevent the pandemic from impacting economic relations. We are trying to get permission for some Iranian investors, as well as officials and non-officials in this area, to come to your country with the consent of the relevant authorities in Azerbaijan to continue work on joint projects that will strengthen trade relations between the two countries.
How do you assess the contract for the purchase and sale of electricity between Azerbaijan's Azerenergy OJSC and Iran's TAVANIR Company?
The cooperation between Iran and Azerbaijan in the electricity sector began in early 2000. The two countries continue to cooperate on the creation of the exchange and transport electricity infrastructure. The laying of the Imishli (Azerbaijan) -Parsabad (Iran) high-voltage power line is an example of this. The Iranian side appreciates this contract. Because every constructive contract that is signed between the two countries which are improving and developing the social welfare of our peoples is important. Undoubtedly, the cooperation between TAVANIR and Azerenergy is valued in this direction and Iran seeks to continue cooperation with friendly and brotherly Azerbaijan in various areas, including electricity.
How will cooperation in this direction continue after the implementation of the contract?
The contract was last extended on May 25, 2020, until the end of the year. According to the contract, Iran will import 160 megawatt-hours of electricity from Azerbaijan from June 6, 2020, in Parsabad County. Both sides are willing to extend this contract and want cooperation to continue. The discussions were held on the format of cooperation between the technical working groups of the two countries. Iran is interested in extending the contract, as well as the fact that the volume of imported electricity will be increased by more than 160 megawatt-hours. The Iranian side is also interested in bilateral exchanges in this area.
Have any steps been taken to sign a new contract between the companies mentioned in the perspective of energy relations between the two countries?
Yes. Positive discussions were held in this direction. The Iranian side is working to further increase energy exchanges and connect the two countries' electricity networks. At the same time, there is an opportunity to exchange 800 megawatt-hours of electricity with Azerbaijan. Besides, both sides agreed to build a 500-megawatt-hours thermal power plant in the Astara district of Azerbaijan. The gas needs of this station will be supplied by Iran, and the electricity generated will be sold to Iran or exported to a third country. Of course, discussions on the settlement of the agreement memorandum have been held and have not been completed yet.
What steps have been taken or will be taken so far in connection with the synchronization of electricity between the two countries?
Trilateral discussions are underway on the establishment of an energy corridor between Iran, Azerbaijan, and Russia. These discussions put forward for the synchronization of the electricity networks of the three countries. This project is very useful for all three countries. An agreement was reached to connect the electricity networks of the three countries and on the joint use of the produced products. If this project is implemented, the energy security and quality of Azerbaijan, Iran, and Russia will increase significantly.
According to the technical discussions and agreements between the Deputy Ministers of Energy of Iran, Azerbaijan, and Russia, Monenco Iran Consulting Engineers Company will conduct technical researches and complete the construction of infrastructure to connect the three countries' power network. This operation has already begun and will be completed in the next few months. After that, it will enter the execution stage.
With the implementation of this project, the seasonal electricity needs of all three countries will be eliminated. As known, the peak consumption period of electricity varies from country to country. For example, the peak electricity consumption in Iran is in the summer. However, in Russia, it occurs during the winter season. Based on this opportunity Iran can use the additional electricity of Russia during its peak consumption period, and to transport the same volume of electricity to Russia via the Azerbaijani electricity network during the non-peak consumption period. With such cooperation, the countries can save their money without building new facilities, and instead can use the additional electricity of the country connected to the network.
What steps have been taken to establish the Azerbaijan-Iran-Turkey energy bridge?
Technical discussions are underway between Iranian and Azerbaijani experts on the format of transmission of Azerbaijani electricity to Turkey via Iran. If these discussions are completed, Iran will be able to receive Azerbaijani electricity in the border areas and deliver it to the border with Turkey. I hope that these discussions will end as soon as possible and that cooperation between the three friendly and brotherly countries will increase.
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