Iran’s connectivity plans suddenly come to life
The second freight train connecting Pakistan to Turkey via Iran left with the coordination of customs, railways and freight forwarders in the three countries after the successful launch of the service last month, according to the news agency Fars.
The 24-car train carrying talc, a mineral-based product commonly used in baby powder, cosmetics, personal hygiene and industrial products, left the dry port of Azakhel in Pakistan for Istanbul in Turkey on Thursday.
After arriving at Zahedan station in Iran via the Mirjaveh border, the cargo is transhipped into covered wagons to be transported to the Razi border from where it will cross Turkey.
In order to increase international trade, Iran’s new administration has said its priority is to complete transit corridors and establish rail links with neighboring countries and others to strengthen passenger and freight transport. railway.
Iran, Pakistan and Turkey are the founders of the Organization for Economic Cooperation (OCE), currently a 10-member political and economic intergovernmental organization established in 1985.
The first freight train carrying rice, dates and pink salt rolled out of Margala station in Islamabad for Istanbul last month after a 10-year hiatus, carrying more than a dozen containers.
The 6,540 km journey from the Pakistani capital to the largest city in Europe takes 10 days, less than half the time required for a trip equivalent to 21 days at sea.
It covers 1,990 km within Pakistan, passing through Quetta to Taftan on the Iranian border and to Tehran and Tabriz over a section of 2,603 km before ending in Istanbul via Ankara.
The three countries launched the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul (ITI) container train service in 2009, but it was only achieved through testing and was never fully operational.
Despite this, they still planned to follow the original freight trains with passenger services and operationalize the transnational ITI line with the aim of improving connectivity with the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). .
“The departure of the container train from Pakistan to Iran and Turkey was a long-held dream of countries in the region, which has come true again,” Pakistani Minister of Railways Azam Khan Swati said. , at the opening of the project.
He said strengthening and expanding CEE rail cooperation can contribute to regional stability and peace.
The ITI, by extension, will connect to China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region which is populated by ethnically Turkish Uyghur Muslims and further strengthen the BRI, a trillion-dollar plan to connect the infrastructure and economies of Asian countries. , Africa and Europe.
China views Iranian transport in particular as part of the BRI and has sought to be closely involved in building the infrastructure of the West Asian nation. The ITI Railroad, on the other hand, will help Iran bypass US sanctions.
For Tehran, this is an interesting alternative trade route as the CEE countries trade in local currencies.
The United States followed a policy of “maximum pressure” against Iran in order to isolate the country by cutting all modes of international trade with the Islamic Republic. However, it is virtually impossible to isolate and prevent Iran from trading with its neighbors.
UAE-Iran-Turkey land corridorr
Last month, an official with the Iranian Road Maintenance and Transport Organization said that the Islamic Republic, Azerbaijan and Georgia had reached an agreement on the establishment of a transit road connecting the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea.
This transit route has the potential to be linked to the ITI and further enhance connectivity in the region, given that Pakistan and Turkey are both close allies of Azerbaijan in addition to having strong trade relations with the region. ‘Iran.
Javad Hedayati also announced the testing of a transit corridor connecting the UAE to Turkey via Iran after two trucks entered the Islamic Republic on a RoRo freighter and traveled the rest of the way to to their destination across the Bazaargan Border.
The new service has cut the journey time by eight days, which normally takes 20 days and requires crossing the Bab al-Mandeb Strait to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, he said.
“The land transit time was much shorter than the sea transit time, and its economic viability has been confirmed. In addition, it does not have the costs and stoppages of crossing the Suez Canal,” Hedayati said. .
The test coincided with a rare visit to Tehran by the UAE’s senior national security adviser, Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in early December. According to media reports, the launch of the land transit corridor connecting the UAE to Turkey via Iran featured prominently in discussions with his Iranian counterpart Ali Shamkhani and other officials.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, however, was quoted on Friday as saying his country had received a proposal from the United Arab Emirates on land transport via Iraq.
“We took advantage of it,” he said, explaining that the two sides signed a land transport agreement during his visit to the United Arab Emirates ahead of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to the Arabian Persian Gulf country on next month.
“When we do the math, any ship currently sailing from Istanbul to the United Arab Emirates takes 25-28 days by sea, but it takes 10 days by land. However, most of that time is spent on customs clearance, ”Cavusoglu said.
“This time should be reduced … We are negotiating now,” he said, adding that they were motivated by the desire to reduce this time via the Iraqi route which could be reduced if the rail and road projects between the Turkey and Iraq were implemented.
Last year, the Turkish transport minister said that Baghdad and Ankara are planning a railway line from the Iraqi port of Faw in the southern province of Basra to the capital and the Turkish border.
Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Rostam Qasemi signed an agreement with his Iraqi counterparts for the implementation of the Basra-Shalamcheh railway during his visit to Baghdad last month.
The official IRNA news agency said the two sides then agreed to form a joint venture to complete the project within two months.
The 30 km railway is strategically important, which could eventually link Iran to the Mediterranean Sea via Iraq and Syria.