A Chinese company has presented the Armenian government with “very good proposals” regarding an ambitious project to build a railway connecting Armenia with neighboring Iran, Transport and Communications Minister Gagik Beglarian said on Thursday.
Beglarian said Armenian officials will visit China in late September for detailed talks on those proposals. He declined to elaborate on them or name the company interested in the railway’s construction, which would cost an estimated $3 billion.
“We have received proposals from the Chinese side,” he told reporters. “We have also told them about our proposals.”
“I will give you details only if we reach a concrete agreement. The bottom line now is that the Chinese side has a strong interest [in the project] and has submitted very good, in my view, proposals,” added the minister.
President Serzh Sarkisian called for “active” Chinese involvement in the project’s implementation when he paid a state visit to China in March. The issue was reportedly on the agenda of Sarkisian’s talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
A Chinese firm, China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), has already conducted a feasibility study on the project and recommended a cost-effective route for the Iran-Armenia rail link. The study was commissioned in 2013 by Rasia FZE, a Dubai-based investment company. The latter had in turn received a 30-year Armenian government concession to build and manage the 305-kilometer section of the railway that would pass through Armenia’s mountainous Syunik and Vayots Dzor provinces.
Earlier this year, one of Beglarian’s deputies, Artur Arakelian, said that Rasia has been holding “very active negotiations” with unnamed Chinese investors interested in financing work on the Armenian section of the would-be railway.
Iran’s ambassador to Armenia, Mohammad Reisi, said last month that Tehran remains ready to finance the much less expensive construction of its Iranian section.
The planned railway would facilitate Armenia’s trade with not only Iran but also China. A large part of Chinese-Armenian trade, which reached nearly $600 million last year, is already carried out through Iran’s Persian Gulf ports.