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June 2017, No. 84


Trade & Business

Iran Inks Agreements with
Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan


The Armenian president said the two countries were determined to implement their agreements on gas and electricity cooperation.


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan at the head of a high ranking delegation. The high level visits were aimed at signing MOUs, strengthening mutual relations and discussing regional issues. President Rouhani believes “Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are Iran’s corridors to the West, East and North.”

In the context of the Southern Corridor of China-led One Belt One Road initiative, Iran’s attention towards Central Asia is increasing since the transportation and energy corridors of the project pass through Central Asian countries, Iran and Turkey.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Rahimpour puts emphasis on the importance of Central Asia for Iran, stating that bolstering ties with friendly countries in Central Asia tops Iran’s foreign policy.

In May 2016, a new railway route passing through China-Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran was successfully tested. This new route is significant since it reduces the time from 45-50 days down to 14 days to deliver goods from China to Iran. The westward direction of the transportation corridor would have to pass through Turkey and reach the European markets.

Iran is the shortest and less complex route for the Central Asian countries to reach European markets over Turkey; Central Asia is the shortest direction for Iran to establish connections with China. Besides East-West routes, North-South corridors are also on the agenda of the countries in the region. For instance, an initiative called North-South Transportation Corridor constitutes the northern links of the transportation corridors. 

ARMENIA

Heading a high-ranking political and economic delegation, President Rouhani began his tour of Armenia on Dec. 21.

The Iranian President and his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan held a meeting to discuss bilateral ties, regional developments and issues of mutual interest. Later, they attended a joint press conference.

Rouhani pointed to the development of Tehran-Yerevan ties in the energy sector, saying the two sides had reached an agreement to enhance cooperation on a deal for Iran to swap gas between Turkmenistan and Armenia, as well as to exchange electricity and complete the third electricity transmission line between the two sides.

He said the railroad links between Iran and Armenia connecting the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea would facilitate the expansion of trade and economic ties between the two nations as well as with other countries.

The Iranian President said the two countries had also agreed to facilitate the activities of businessmen and investors, including in Aras Free Zone, located in northwestern Iran, at the border point with Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The Armenian president said the two countries were determined to implement their agreements on gas and electricity cooperation.

Rouhani also expressed hope for the restoration of peace, through dialogue, to the disputed Caucasus region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Describing Armenia and Azerbaijan as Iran’s “friendly neighbors”, Rouhani expressed optimism that “a lasting peace” would be established in the Karabakh region “through negotiations and political means”. 

KAZAKHSTAN


The agreement was signed between the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line (IRISL) and Kazakhstan’s KTZ Express – a subsidiary of the national railway company, Kazakhstan Railways.


On the second leg of Rouhani’s tour, which took him to Kazakhstan the next day, Tehran and Astana signed five cooperation agreements.

Rouhani and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev oversaw the signing of the accords.

The agreements cover such areas as livestock quarantine, shipping in the Caspian Sea, tourism, social welfare and cooperation between the central banks of the two countries to facilitate mutual business. 

Iran and Kazakhstan also signed an agreement to establish a joint dual-modal transportation company that could lead to the creation of a new transport corridor connecting Iran’s southern ports to the upper parts of Central Asia – and even possibly Russia and China.

The agreement was signed between the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line (IRISL) and Kazakhstan’s KTZ Express – a subsidiary of the national railway company, Kazakhstan Railways.  

KYRGYZSTAN


Rouhani welcomed Atambayev’s proposal to connect China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran through a railway linking the region to the Sea of Oman, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.


Iran and Kyrgyzstan signed several cooperation agreements in Bishkek on the last leg of President Rouhani’s tour.

President Rouhani and his Kyrgyz counterpart, Almazbek Atambayev attended the signing ceremony of five agreements aimed at expanding economic cooperation between the two countries (Dec. 23).

High-ranking officials from the two countries signed the documents which include a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation between Iran’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee of Information Technologies and Communications.

The other documents focus on enhancement of bilateral collaboration in the fields of health and medicine, culture and arts, social affairs, and combating narcotics trafficking.

President Rouhani, at a joint press conference with his Kyrgyz counterpart, underlined Tehran’s determination to establish closer relations with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

“Since Kyrgyzstan is a member of the EAEU, relations with Kyrgyzstan and the whole EAEU can affect our economic ties, and we hope that the union will take proper decisions in this regard during its meeting on September 26 [2017],” Rouhani said.

He further pointed to the two countries’ plans to waive the visa requirement in three phases for business purposes, tourism and other ordinary trips, respectively.

Rouhani welcomed Atambayev’s proposal to connect China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran through a railway linking the region to the Sea of Oman, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.

He also expressed Iran’s preparedness to transfer technical and engineering services to Kyrgyzstan and cooperate with the country in different areas, including countering terrorism, narcotics and organized crime.

Atambayev lauded the close stances of both countries on various international issues.

The two countries condemn terrorism in all its forms, said the Kyrgyz president, adding that no one has the right to attribute terrorism and extremism to a nation or religion with the aim of inciting Islamophobia.

He also expressed support for full membership of Iran in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and noted that Tehran’s potential can promote the international standing of the SCO.

Considering the fact that both Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are SCO members, Iran is likely to seek further support for its membership to the organization. Iran has openly declared interest to join SCO; however, this has not been actualized due to the international sanctions against it. In the post-nuclear deal era (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), Iran has repeated its interest, and both China and Russia, along with other members, have supported Iran’s membership prospects. Ultimately, SCO might provide a platform for Iran to enhance its economic role in the region and help both Iran and China as well as Russia and the Central Asian countries, to strengthen ties.

As Iran is looking for new markets and partners in the post-JCPOA era, its relations with the eastern-initiated institutions are getting stronger.  

PRIORITIES

Speaking to reporters upon his return home, Rouhani said the sanctions were a big obstacle on the way of economic relations with Central Asian countries. “In post-JCPOA era, all countries are happy with economic ties with Iran and the government should facilitate export of technical and engineering services to these countries.”

Touching upon achievements in his regional tour, Rouhani said consultations were made over lifting visa issuance with Armenia and plans to do the same with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. He also noted that the Central Bank of Iran has established relations with the three countries’ banks.

He also pointed to security issues, removal of preferential tariffs, agricultural cooperation, extra-territorial farming, technical and engineering services, power plants and dams, cultural and academic ties, and joining the EAEU among issues discussed in the three countries.

 

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  June 2017
No. 84