Staunton, Dec. 10 – The current arrangements under which Russian trains can pass through Lithuania to and from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad are an appropriate model for transit via Armenian territory by trains to and from Azerbaijan proper and its exclave, Nakhichevan, Natig Dzhafarli says.
The Azerbaijani economist who heads the Republic Research Center and is a memer of the Republican Alternative Party in Azerbaijan says that the rail lines both in portions of Azerbaijan that were under Armenian occupation and in Syunik need to be rebuilt because they were raided for scrap earlier (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/371141/).
Azerbaijan is currently working on the 110 km of track in Azerbaijan and will complete this segment by the end of 2022, but Armenia has not begun to work on the 46 to 50 km of line that would be necessary to make this route operational. Yerevan lacks the funds to build it, Dzhafarli says and fears opening an east-west route in Syunik before a north-south one.
But if Armenia got financing either from Russia and Iran which have immediate interests in the project or from the international community, the entire route could open sometime in 2023. The Baku analyst excluded the possibility that Azerbaijan would help finance the Armenian segment as it did the Georgian segment in the Baku-Jeyhan-Kars project.
While Armenian officials dispute the point, Dzhafarli says that they agreed to opening this route. It would be guarded by Russian FSB officials but Armenia would be responsible for overall security of trains going back and forth on what would initially at least be a single-track, Soviet-standard gage.
The Baku economist’s reference to the Lithuanian model is intriguing as it has seldom been mentioned in the past. If Russia were to accept this and if it were thus to provide funding to Armenia, the Zengezur corridor as Azerbaijanis call it could become a functioning reality within 18 months.