Azerbaijan, Armenia Agree to Reopen Railways

Gulnar Abbasova Feature 17 December 2021
Azerbaijan, Armenia Agree to Reopen Railways

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan have reaffirmed their agreement to reopen railways, their meeting in Brussels.

“The Armenian side has reaffirmed its commitment to build a railway from its territory. It was noted that the Armenian side would soon start construction of the railway. The agreement was reached to ensure customs and border control issues based on the principle of reciprocity,” Azerbaijan's state-run Azartac news agency reported on 17 December. 

Both sides also agreed to establish a temporary working group on the delimitation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

Aliyev said at a joint press conference with NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels on 14 December that Baku and Yerevan had agreed to construct a railroad and a highway linking mainland Azerbaijan to its autonomous exclave of Nakhchivan through Armenia. The exact route of the highway has not been defined yet and is the subject of further discussions. 

The Azerbaijani president added that Baku would place customs checkpoints in the Lacin corridor if Armenia would place such checkpoints in the so-called Zangazur corridor, a transport link that will connect mainland Azerbaijan and its Naxcivan exclave via Armenia.

Addressing a cabinet session in Yerevan, on December 16, Pashinyan said that Yerevan will soon start the construction of a railway that will link mainland Azerbaijan to its exclave of Nakhchivan via southern Armenia. The railway would go from the western Armenian village of Yeraskh to Horadiz on Azerbaijan's southern frontier, passing through Julfa and Ordubad in Nakhchivan and Meghri in southern Armenia. 

He said that the railway will give Armenia access to Iran and Russia, and added that if Armenia and Turkey agreed on the opening of their border, then a railway from Armenia's Gyumri to Kars in Turkey would reopen as well.

Azerbaijan has already started the construction of the 110-km Horadiz-Agband railway (from the town of Horadiz in Azerbaijan's Fuzuli District to the town of Agband in Zangilan District on the Armenian border) in February 2021.

New railway tracks have been laid from Horadiz to Jabrayil District, and the railway will be put into operation in the first quarter of 2023. The railway going along the Azerbaijani-Iranian border would be part of the rail link connecting Azerbaijan to Nakhchivan via southern Armenia. 

According to Armenian Economy Minister Vahan Kerobyan, the construction of a railway that will run via southern Armenia to connect mainland Azerbaijan with its exclave Nakhchivan will cost about 200 million dollars

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan has not disclosed the construction cost of railway. Baku allocated 2.2 billion manats (1.29 billion dollars) from the 2021 state budget for financing the rehabilitation of the lands in Karabakh that Azerbaijan regained in the Second Karabakh War against Armenia in autumn 2020.

Kerobyan also said the railway in Meghri would be built anew because the Soviet-era railway there had been completely disassembled and turned into a motorway. The minister added that repairs need to be done on the railway from Yeraskh to Nakhchivan and that works would not cost much.