Iran and Armenia will hold soon more negotiations on the ambitious idea of building a railway connecting the two neighboring states, the Iranian ambassador in Yerevan, Seyyed Kazem Sajjad, said on Thursday.
“Armenia’s transport minister and Iran’s roads and urban development minister negotiated on this issue [in Tehran last month,] and a delegation of Iranian specialists will visit Armenia in the near future to look into technical-economic justifications [for the project,]” Sajjad told reporters.
The Armenian and Iranian governments have discussed the expensive project for more than a decade. Yerevan has so far failed to attract an estimated $3 billion needed for building the 305-kilometer-long Armenian section of the railway that would mainly pass through the mountainous Syunik province.
Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian discussed the possibility of Chinese funding for the project when he visited China in September. Armenian officials said afterwards that the Chinese government will conduct a feasibility study before deciding whether to finance work on the strategic rail link.
Armenia’s Transport and Communications Minister Gagik Beglarian suggested an alternative, cheaper route for the Armenian section of the would-be railway when he visited Tehran late last month. The Iranian delegation mentioned by Sajjad will presumably examine its costs and benefits during the planned talks in Yerevan.
Echoing statements by Armenian officials, Sajjad expressed confidence that the recent lifting of international sanctions against Iran will significantly facilitate closer commercial ties between the Islamic Republic and its small Christian neighbor. “Very soon we will witness a further development of bilateral relations,” added the ambassador.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian discussed the new opportunities opened up by the sanctions relief in a January 23 phone call. Rouhani reportedly told Sarkisian that the two nations should “spare no effort in connecting Persian Gulf and Black Sea ports” with transport corridors passing through Iran, Armenia and Georgia.