Putin, Aliyev and Rouhani to strengthen Moscow-Baku-Tehran format
Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran have a significant potential for the development of joint transport infrastructure within a number of both tripartite and more global projects, and this topic is a key one in cooperation within the Moscow-Baku-Tehran format, the experts on the region told the correspondents of Vestnik Kavkaza, commenting on the upcoming meeting of the Presidents Vladimir Putin, Ilham Aliyev and Hassan Rouhani in Tehran.
The head of the Iranian section of the Center for the Study of Countries at the Middle East of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the RAS, Nina Mamedova, stressed that the development of economic relations in the Russia-Azerbaijan-Iran format is beneficial to all three countries. "All three countries are energy exporters, and it is important for us to distribute hydrocarbon supply routes between us, acting on the world market as united force. Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran can create a significant transport corridor between Europe and the Indian Ocean on their territory. This prospect is becoming more realistic taking into account the disagreements between Europe and the US, which are being formed after President Donald Trump's coming to power," she noted.
According to Nina Mammadova, the presidents will devote a significant part of the talks to the problem of the legal status of the Caspian Sea, as its decision will effectively develop transport corridors across the Caspian. "I think the presidents will discuss, mainly, the southern part of the Caspian Sea and the development of transport corridors there," the regional expert drew attention.
Three countries are united by interests in both energy and transport infrastructure. "The energy belt already exists - there is an electricity exchange between Iran and Azerbaijan, first of all, with the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic. This line may be prolonged to Russia through Dagestan, and it is an interesting and important topic for the talks, since it will allow to connect the North-South corridor with the southern corridor of the Silk Road more fully," Nina Mammadova said.
Analyst of the Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House, Stanislav Pritchin, noted the potential of the Russian-Azerbaijani-Iranian economic format. "Now we see that preparations are being made for more global economic projects, primarily infrastructural ones, which will allow to intensify economic cooperation, including trade, local and transit projects," he said.
"Speaking about the meeting of the presidents, it is worth noting that the summit of the Caspian Five was postponed again this year, and we can say that this tripartite meeting will take place instead of it. Our countries have several dimensions for cooperation. First, it is the North-South International Transport Corridor. The latest data from Iran indicate that the railway section connecting Azerbaijan's Astara with Iran's Astara has been completed, which means that this railway route could already be used," Stanislav Pritchin stressed.
There are common interests among the three countries in the oil and gas sector as well. "First of all, this is the cooperation within the OPEC deal to cut oil output. In addition, the issue of building gas pipelines to Europe is likely to be discussed: the construction of the TANAP pipeline and Azerbaijan's part of Southern Gas Corridor is at the final stage, and Russia is developing its Turkish Stream project. In addition, within the bilateral format, Presidents Aliyev and Putin will discuss the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," the analyst of the Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House expects.
Political scientist Rovshan Ibragimov expressed confidence that this format of the meetings of the presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran will become regular. "Most likely, the next summit will be held in Russia. Primarily the presidents will consider the implementation of the North-South transport project at the meeting," he predicted.
"All three sides try to complete the process of infrastructure development as soon as possible to implement the North-South project. Within the framework of this work, a new trunk bridge is being built on the Azerbaijani-Russian border. And it should not be forgotten that all three countries are Caspian states, which consider possible projects related to maritime transport. Russia has a rather interesting cruise ship project between the ports on the Caspian Sea, for this purpose a new cruise ship is being built in Astrakhan. Due to this, a tourist aspect of interaction in the Caspian can also be on the President's agenda," Rovshan Ibrahimov underlined.
The first trilateral meeting of Vladimir Putin, Ilham Aliyev and Hassan Rouhani was held in Baku on August 8, 2016. The sides signed a joint declaration by its end. "Considering the Caspian Sea as the sea of peace, friendship, security and cooperation, the parties stated the importance of the early adoption of the convention on its legal status," the declaration says.