The Chinese government will conduct a feasibility study before deciding whether to finance the construction of a railway connecting Armenia to neighboring Iran, Economy Minister Karen Chshmaritian said on Friday.
Earlier this week Chshmaritian accompanied Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian on a working visit to China that involved talks with his Chinese counterpart, Li Keqiang. An Armenian government statement said that they discussed “in detail” the possibility of Chinese funding for the ambitious Armenian-Iranian project.
“The Chinese premier instructed corresponding officials -- notably China’s deputy minister of commerce and the co-chair of a China-Armenia commission on economic cooperation -- to coordinate that study and move forward by coordinating things with the Armenian side,” Chshmaritian told reporters in Yerevan.
The minister said that Beijing will be ready to provide as much as $3 billion needed for building the 305-kilometer-long Armenian section of the railway if it is deemed economically beneficial for China. He said the Chinese are interested in the expensive project because it would result in a new trade connecting their country to Europe via Iran, Armenia and Georgia.
A large part of Chinese-Armenian trade, which reached nearly $600 million last year, is carried out through Iran’s Persian Gulf ports.
A state-run Chinese company has already conducted a feasibility study on the would-be railway. The study was commissioned in 2013 by a Dubai-based investment company that had received a 30-year Armenian government concession to build and manage its Armenian section.