ArmInfo. Back in 2016, Iran proposed the regional initiative to expand the Persian Gulf-Black Sea project, which involves Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Bulgaria and Greece. In an interview with ArmInfo, Ara Marjanyan, National expert on Energy (UNDP) and Transport (European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument) sectors in Armenia, spoke of the main reasons for Armenia's interest in and support for this strategic corridor.
The transport corridor connecting the Persian Gulf with the Black Sea region via Armenia is, no doubt, of strategic importance for Armenia. Moreover, the corridor connects the Gulf of Oman with the Indian Ocean. Of high importance to Armenia is the logistic and multimodal connection between Chabahar Port on the Gulf of Oman with the Georgian Black Sea ports, as far as Russia and Europe, the expert said.
Mr Marjanyan believes the corridor project development underlies many geopolitical processes in the region. The Chabahar Port development is causing discontent in Pakistan, which considers the Iranian port as its natural rival. On the other hand, Chabahar Port is involved in various logistic directions, with India, for example, considering it as a convenient transshipment point for transporting its cargoes to the north or south, possibly via Armenia.
"In recent months, especially after the 44-day war in Artsakh, we have seen New Delhi's activity in developing this transport corridor from India as far as Iran, Armenia, Georgia and the Black Sea," he said.
Azerbaijan is getting actively involved in the project as well. Baku is actively lobbying for its communication and transit potential both in the North-South and in the East-West directions.
"Azerbaijan is offering the Caspian ports for the North-South corridor, which requires completion of the Astara-Rasht railway line. Moreover, Baku is alluding to possible operation of certain ways connected with the continental part of our region, which opens up an opportunity to use the Julfa railway station, which project is of paramount importance for the Armenian side," Mr Marjanyan said. In this context, he recalls the station's namesake, Jolfa railway station, in East Azerbaijan Province of Iran. For decades this railway junction ensured connection between the Black Sea, Georgia, Armenia, Nakhichevan, Iran and the Persian Gulf. This route could be rehabilitated through implementation of the so-called Zangezur corridor project.
"Putting aside unnecessary politesse, the most important thing for Yerevan that should be emphasized is the rehabilitation of the Julfa railway junction, which would connect the Gulf of Oman with the Black Sea via Armenia. Otherwise, all the talks about unblocking the regional transport links are worth nothing," the expert said.
Iran plans to connect its ports in the Gulf of Oman (Chabahar Port) and in the Persian Gulf (Bandar Abbas, Bandar-e Emam Khomeyni and Khorramshahr) in the south with the Black Sea and Caspian ports by means of railways. Connecting the Gulf with the Black Sea will connect four principal basins, namely, the Gulf of Oman, the Caspian Sea (Iran-Azerbaijan), the Black Sea (Georgia and Bulgaria), and the Mediterranean (Greece). In the South Caucasus, Armenia is the only country that is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Therefore, it is a bridge between Iran and the bloc, which highlights the importance of the Persian Gulf-Black Sea international transport and transit corridor for Iran. And if Yerevan and Baku can settle their disagreements over Article 9 of the Ceasefire Agreement of November 10, 2020, which deals with the rehabilitation of a number of Soviet-era railways, it will enable Iran to establish railway communication with Armenia and Georgia. The railway track will start running from the Jolfa railway station, in East Azerbaijan Province of Iran, to Julfa in Nakhichevan as far as Yerevan and Tbilisi. It is noteworthy that the Nakhichevan-Yerevan railway could replace the expensive and devious route from Yerevan to Meghri on the Armenian-Iranian border. And replacing this transit link could be an important step toward full-scale implementation of the Persian Gulf -Black Sea project.
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