The summit of the presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran will undoubtedly adjust the process of reformatting in the Middle East region. The political effect of the summit is already evident, because it points to the growing role of regional actors in this troubled area, and the economic effect will depend on specific agreements, says Valdai Club expert Nina Mamedova. To date, the three countries have objective interest in such cooperation.
One of the most significant issues discussed at the Tehran summit is the Syrian problem, or the opportunities for interaction on it, Nina Mamedova, head of the Iranian sector of the Middle East Studies Center of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Assistant Professor of the Department of World Economy, MGIMO, said in an interview with www.valdaiclub.com. “The problem is multilayered. It includes not only a vision of the further development of the political situation in Syria, but also an economic one, related to the reconstruction of the country, as well as the ethno-national issue – mainly because of the Kurdish problem,” Nina Mamedova noted.
Also discussed during the summit were two important issues which are directly related to all the three countries and whose solution is impossible without their participation: these are the Caspian problem and the North-South international transport corridor.
According to Nina Mamedova, the three states are objectively interested in the joint use of the Caspian Sea resources, especially the energy resources, and also in activation of the North-South corridor. Connection of the North-South corridor to the Belt and Road project, which is actively promoted and financed by China, has a special economic importance for both Russia and Azerbaijan.
“However, the efficient use of the North-South corridor largely depends on joint transport routes across the Caspian coast and across the Caspian Sea itself, on resolving the problem of its legal status, on harmonizing customs policy and logistics,” Nina Mamedova said.
Farhad Mammadov, director of the Center for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, also pointed to the strategic importance of the North-South project. “The construction of such a large-scale infrastructure project is always a guarantee of stability and predictability of neighbours,” the expert told www.valdaiclub.com.
Farhad Mammadov recalled that the first summit of the presidents of the Russian Federation, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan was held in Baku in August 2016. At that meeting, decisions were taken regarding the formation of the North-South transport corridor.
“Since the Soviet era, there has been a railway between Russia and Azerbaijan, which operates successfully, but there were no railroad links between Azerbaijan and Iran,” Farhad Mammadov said. As part of the North-South project, Azerbaijan expressed its readiness to allocate a $ 500 million loan to Iran for the construction of the Rasht-Astara railroad, which is an important segment of the transport corridor.
“The work is underway, and we can regard the recent summit as a regular impetus for systematization of all projects that will serve to form a shorter, safe and convenient North-South route,” Farhad Mammadov said.
In general, according to Farhad Mammadov, the dialogue between Azerbaijan, Russia and Iran is at a very high level and should positively affect the negotiations on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, which are to be completed in the first half of the next year, when a relevant convention is expected to be signed.
In turn, Nina Mamedova noted that the removal of a significant part of the sanctions against Iran gives a real chance for a more active negotiation process between Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran on a number of issues, as well as to implement the previously reached agreements.