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Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili (L) shakes hands with President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran on April 22.
Economy, Domestic Economy

Iran Welcomes Transit Corridor Linking Persian Gulf, Black Sea

Iran has agreed to activate a corridor stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea through Azerbaijan and Georgia.
President Hassan Rouhani and First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri met Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili in Tehran on Saturday to discuss the transport corridor.
“Iran can serve as a linkage for Georgia and other regional countries to the Persian Gulf, Sea of Oman and Indian Ocean, while Georgia is able to facilitate Iran’s access to the Black Sea,” Rouhani was quoted as saying by the Persian daily Iran.
“Today, regional transit has special importance,” the president said, referring to a rail connection between Iran and Azerbaijan as well as rail and road infrastructures in Georgia.
This could “bring about a sea change” in the economy of the region, if Tehran and Tbilisi boost cooperation, he added.
Iran has been negotiating the abovementioned corridor with Georgia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Italy and Greece over the past several months. The Islamic Republic seeks to use the corridor as an alternative for the current route to Europe that passes through Turkey.
Although the Turkish transit route, due to the country’s geopolitical status, has been a convenient choice for Iranian transport companies, a series of problems over the past few years have compelled Tehran to think of alternatives.
Over the past year, Tehran and Ankara have been grappling with a longstanding transit dispute, arising from different fuel prices in Iran and Turkey.
The common border has frequently been the scene of traffic congestion with transit trucks queuing at the border in lines reaching 15 kilometers. Agreements reached between the neighboring countries’ customs officials have done little to help solve the problem.
Border security is another issue hindering transit via Turkey. Several Iranian trucks have become the target of arson attacks in Turkey, which Ankara has blamed on armed forces affiliated to Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“Major countries, including China, India and Malaysia, are willing to use this alternative route,” Jahangiri was quoted as saying by IRNA in a meeting with the Georgian premier.
“Officials from both countries have held several rounds of negotiations about the corridor, but this process should be accelerated.”
Jahangiri said the route through Georgia is beneficial both in terms of time and cost of transit.
“However, to increase bilateral trade and expand economic relations, we need to complete the infrastructures,” he said.
Iran is currently using a road-rail transit system for transportation of goods from its southern ports to its northern neighbors. At the same time, it intends to complete its northern rail projects to enjoy a unified rail transport from free waters to Europe.
A rail connection from the Caspian port of Astara to an Azeri city with the same name is near completion and the construction of a railroad from Rasht to Astara is expected to be launched soon.

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