Railroad Diplomacy: Azerbaijan seeks to torpedo possible Iranian agreements with Armenia

Railroad Diplomacy: Azerbaijan seeks to torpedo possible Iranian agreements with Armenia

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Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev paid a visit to Iran on February 23 where he signed a number of agreements. But the most important of them appeared to be the document on the merger of the Iranian and Azerbaijani railways that some in Baku have already called “the Persian defeat of [Armenian President Serzh] Sargsyan.”

Iran had organized a kind of competition between Armenia and Azerbaijan, hinting that communication with Europe and Russia could be established either via Armenia or Azerbaijan. This caused certain steps from both South Caucasus countries.

Last week, President Serzh Sargsyan convened consultations on the prospects of the development of relations with Iran.

Among the most likely areas of cooperation he singled out increasing the capacity of electric power supplies to Iran as well as the offer to become a reliable platform for Western capital that wants to invest in Iran.

In Armenia they speak about the Iran railway as about too expensive a project, which does not attract investments. Besides, for many years Azerbaijan and Turkey have been carrying out a policy of blocking Armenia, and they are doing everything for Iran and Armenia to fail to develop cooperation and change the logistic scheme of the region.

The railroad between Iran and Azerbaijan still has to be completed, and there is also a pledge to build a bridge between the Iranian and Azerbaijani towns of Astara, whose construction has been planned for long. This sluggishness has partly been explained by the lack of economic interest in Iran. These railways are to link Iran with Russia, with which Tehran could very easily communicated through the Caspian Sea. What Iran would like to have is the path to the European coast of the Black Sea, and the shortest route runs through Armenia and Georgia.

Experts do not exclude that Azerbaijan has reached agreements with Iran first of all in order to torpedo the possible Armenian-Iranian agreements. However, the Armenian-Iranian road has not lost its relevance and can be activated at any time, if there is a political necessity and conditions for that. The main condition is certainly a probable agreement on the Karabakh conflict settlement, which will imply unblocking communications. This will mean that the already existing Armenian-Iranian railway passing through the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhijevan can be activated.