Iran and Belarus negotiate, as work on multimodal transit corridor slowly advances
New discussions between representatives from Iran and Belarus focused on expansions for a multimodal route that would ultimately link the Asian country of Iran to Eastern Europe. The Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, met with the Speaker of the Belarusian Council of the Republic, Mikhail Myasnikovich, in Tehran (Iran), to talk about further collaboration between the two countries. Iran proposes to develop a section of the ‘North-South Transit Corridor’ to include trade between the Persian Gulf region and the European Union.
The corridor currently links Mumbai (India) and Moscow (Russia), also passing through Iran and Azerbaijan. It uses railway, ship and road connections, as an alternative to the much longer water route through the Arabian, Mediterranean and North Seas.
With nuclear-related sanctions against Iran being lifted in January 2016, the country is now able to develop economically, starting with better deals with Belarus, according to President Hassan Rouhani. He goes on to say that ‘developing and deepening mutual relations will serve the interests of the two governments and people’.
The North-South International Transport Corridor agreement was signed back in September 2000 and became official as of May 16, 2002. It has then been ratified by Russia, India and Iran, while 11 more countries joined the project in later years: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria (with observer status), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Oman, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey and Ukraine. Although the project is a little over 16 years old, the route isn’t fully operational. It was, however, tested with a freight shipment in 2016.
Some of the problems are seen on the 150 km long railway section in Iran, from Rasht to Astara, still in the build stage. Further difficulties relate to logistics issues, in the range of goods to be transported from the North end to the South and back again. Experts believe that empty containers will gather up at one end, while the other will lack the necessary transport containers.