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Russian Officials Hold Fresh Talks On Armenian-Azeri Transport Links


Armenia - Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigorian meets with his Russian counterpart Alexei Overchuk and the head of Russian Railways network, Oleg Belozerov, Yerevan, February 2, 2022.

Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk visited Yerevan on Wednesday for further talks with Armenian officials on ongoing efforts to restore transport links between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Overchuk arrived in the Armenian capital with Oleg Belozerov, the chief executive of the Russian Railways (RZD) state monopoly managing Armenia’s railway network. They met with Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigorian.

An Armenian government statement on the meeting said they discussed, among other things, issues on the agenda of a Russian-Armenian-Azerbaijani working group dealing with practical modalities of opening the Armenian-Azerbaijani border to passenger and cargo traffic. The statement gave no details.

The working group co-headed by Overchuk and his Armenian and Azerbaijani opposite numbers last met in Moscow on December 1. It had been expected to formalize relevant understandings reached by the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia in Sochi on November 26.

The trilateral body announced no deals on the transport links, however. It emerged afterwards that Baku and Yerevan disagree on the status of a highway that would connect Azerbaijan to its Nakhichevan exclave through Armenia’s Syunik province.

The two sides appear to be much closer to establishing a rail link between Nakhichevan and the rest of Azerbaijan, which would also pass through Syunik. The Armenian government set up last month a task force that will coordinate work on the 45-kilometer railway

Grigorian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service in December that its planned construction will likely cost $200 million and take about three years. Russian officials have not said publicly whether RZD is ready to invest or participate otherwise in the project.

Armenia -- A commuter train at Yerevan railway station, February 27, 2018
Armenia -- A commuter train at Yerevan railway station, February 27, 2018

RZD runs the Armenian railway network, called South Caucasus Railway (SCR), in line with a 30-year management contract signed with the former Armenian government in 2008.

The statement on Grigorian’s talks with Overchuk and Belozerov said the two sides “emphasized the SRC’s important role in the Armenian economy” and discussed “further development” of the company’s cooperation with the current government.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said in early January that Moscow is aiming for a quick “completion of the elaboration of the parameters of joint infrastructure initiatives” agreed with Yerevan and Baku.

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