Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan recently signed a series of railway agreements aimed at implementing the North-South Transport Corridor, including constructing rail links to connect the Iranian cities of Qazvin, Rasht and Astara. In an e-mail interview, Taleh Ziyadov, a doctoral fellow at Cambridge University, and Regine A. Spector, a visiting research fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center's Kennan Institute, discussed transport cooperation among Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan.
WPR: How extensive are the existing transportation links among the three countries?
Taleh Ziyadov and Regine A. Spector: Azerbaijan and Russia are connected by railroad and by a recently constructed modern highway linking Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, to the Azerbaijan-Russia border. There is also a maritime connection between the Port of Baku and the Russian Caspian ports. The transportation links between Azerbaijan and Iran, however, are limited to maritime and roads only. The Soviet-era railway that united the three countries and acted as a major supply chain between the Middle East, South Asia and the Soviet Union was destroyed during the Armenia-Azerbaijan war in the 1990s. Azerbaijan's current rail tracks end in the southernmost city of Astara, 6 miles short of the Azerbaijan-Iran border. From there cargo is transported by trucks.