Azerbaijan, Russia To Move Ahead With Completing Vital Rasht-Astara INSTC Rail Link Through Iran

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Russia is ready to move to the practical implementation of the missing components of the International North-South Corridor (INSTC), Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during a press conference with his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov. According to Lavrov, discussions are underway on the construction of the section Rasht-Astara, which is currently missing.

“Baku and Moscow are in constant talks on issues of transport cooperation. Our presidential administrations are directly involved in the process of creating transport links, including on the Rasht-Astara section. Russia and Azerbaijan play a leading role here” Lavrov stated.

This section is a planned 35 km stretch of the Rasht-Persian Gulf railway line in Iran’s northern Gilan Province, however tensions between Iran and Azerbaijan in recent months have held construction plans up. There are also technical difficulties – part of the railway passes through agricultural lands and marsh areas, causing construction delays. However, in terms of the entire route, and infrastructure connections and support to it, about 70% of the expected work has already been completed.

The route is a vital piece of the INSTC rail network, and especially so for Russia as it  feeds into existing INSTC railway lines in Iran that link directly to Iran’s southern Gulf Sea ports at Chabahar. That in turn gives maritime access to the Middle East, East Africa, India, and South Asia.

The section, when fully operational, will be faster, more secure and less expensive than the current Suez canal route from Asia to Europe. The Rasht-Persian Gulf Railway shortens the time of freight transport from Russia and Azerbaijan to East Asia by four weeks. Russia has agreed to finance the expected US$155 million route costs in exchange for Iranian oil.

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