Friday, November 27, 2020

Azerbaijan Begins Planning to Restore Rail Link to Nakchivan, Aliyev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 24 – President Ilham Aliyev says that he has already issued preliminary instructions on the restoration of rail links between Azerbaijan proper and Nakchivan, a move that will give real content to the transit corridor between the two called for in the November 10 declaration.

            Because such a line will allow for a direct rail connection through Nakchivan to Turkey, this move will have the greatest geopolitical consequences. But at the same time, Aliyev announced that Baku is already working to reopen rail lines to Agdam and adjoining areas it has recovered from the Armenian occupation (

            Although the Azerbaijani president made no announcement at this time, Baku presumably will also be restoring main and branch rail lines through other parts of the formerly occupied territories, a move that will improve economic development in these regions and promote their reintegration into Azerbaijan.

            So far, however, Yerevan has made no announcement about possible plans to give a rail dimension to the transit arrangements the November 10 declaration opens for it across Nakchivan to Iran (

            These are not the only rail lines in the region that now may be reopened. From Moscow’s perspective, perhaps even more important are plans to restore the operation of the trans-reginal links connecting Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Iran as well as to Turkey via Armenia and to the ports of Georgia (

            Because of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, these lines have been largely inoperative for three decades even though, as Stoletiye journalist Aleksey Chichkin says, they were in their combination known already at the time of World War I as “the Trans-Siberian of the Trans-Caucasus.”

            Russia’s Trans-Caucasus railroad was built in stages between 1865 and 1949, with the branch line going to Turkey in 1899 and to Iran in 1911. During the 1930s and 1940s, Moscow build parallel with the Iranian border the line between Baku and Nakchivan through the Megri region of Armenia.

            This rail network allowed for the development of trade, but it was especially important for the supply of war materiel from the West to the Soviet Union during World War II. Trade and passenger traffic expanded after that conflict. Experts predict that trade and passenger traffic will rise 20 percent or more with the restoration of these lines.

            Of particular interest will likely be the development of copper and cobalt mines in Nakhchivan.

            But none of these lines are going to start working immediately, experts say. As much of a third of the route must be completely replaced because the tracks were not maintained over the last three decades. Financing these lines will be critical because only those countries which have or can attract sufficient resources will get the benefits from these railroads.

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