YEREVAN (ARKA)–The issue of Russia’s involvement in the construction of an ambitious railway linking Iran and Armenia will be decided by a task force composed of deputy ministers from both countries, Armenia’s Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan said on Wednesday.
Armenia and Iran formalized their plans to construct the railway connecting the two neighboring countries in April when Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian signed an agreement to that affect on his visit to Tehran. Construction of the railway is estimated to be completed in about 5 years.
“The construction of the Iran-Armenia railway is an open project, and we invited our Russian partners,” Sargsyan was quoted by the Armenian ARKA news agency as saying. “The Intergovernmental Commission has appointed task group members, and the Russian side has nominated its candidates.”
In this context he also pointed out the Armenian President’s political decision incorporated in a document signed during Serzh Sargsyan’s visit to Iran.
“The Iranian side gave assurances that a similar political decision was made. In any case, the work is under way,” Sargsyan said.
Construction of the 470-kilometer long rail link, the bulk of it passing through Armenian territory, will take at least three years and cost up to $1.2 billion. Iran has said it is ready to issue a $400 million loan to Armenia to finance the 410km segment of the railway that runs through Armenia.
The two government’s hope to attract much of the required funding from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The Armenian side is optimistic about the success of its ongoing negotiations with the two lending institutions, he added.
According to Sargsyan, the project will have several phases: a feasibility study, specification of financing, routing and final construction.
The railway will serve as an alternative means of transporting energy resources and other products to Armenia. The lack of a rail link between Armenia and Iran is seen as a major hindrance to the development of Armenian-Iranian trade, which amounted to a relatively modest $226.6 million last year. It also complicates the use of Iranian territory in Armenia’s transport communication with the outside world.