Armenia And Azerbaijan To Proceed Trans-Nakhchivan Railway With Links To Iran

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By Chris Devonshire-Ellis

Railway will finally connect Armenia with BRI and INSTC

Azerbaijan and Armenia have agreed to a railway building programme that European and Russian leaders hope will repair trust in the Caucasus after a 2020 war that killed 7,000 people. Under the plan, unveiled after meetings between Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Brussels with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Council President Charles Michel, a railway will now link the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan, across Armenian territory, with mainland Azerbaijan.

Aliyev has been pushing for the rail link since his forces defeated Armenian forces in a war last year for control of Nagorno-Karabakh but in a statement, he said that the railway would be a “win-win” for both sides. “It really will create a special positive atmosphere in the region and is a win-win for everyone,” he said.

Pashinyan also tried to strike an upbeat tone when he discussed the deal with his government, pointing out that it will provide more trading routes. “With this railway Armenia will receive access to Iran and Russia, while Azerbaijan will receive railway access to Nakhchivan,” he said.

International diplomacy around Nagorno-Karabakh was stepped up in November after renewed fighting killed 15 soldiers. Diplomats hope that this deal will soothe tension even though skirmishes continue. The budget for the railway, who is going to pay for it, and its exact route still has to be decided although at least part of the railway is set to run through the Zangazur Corridor. Other lobbyists have been talking up the prospect of rebuilding an 80km section of railway that runs along the Iranian border and would connect with the INSTC and run north to Russia, west to Turkey, the Black Sea and Europe, and east to India.

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Chris Devonshire-Ellis is the Chairman of Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm assists British and Foreign Investment into Asia and has 28 offices throughout China, India, the ASEAN nations and Russia. For strategic and business intelligence concerning China’s Belt & Road Initiative please email or visit us at