Welcome to the #RestartConnects weekly digest on the main developments in the South Caucasus for the period September 5-9, 2022.
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Azerbaijan, Iran, and Russia sign Baku Declaration on North-South Transport Corridor
On September 9, 2022, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Russia signed the Baku Declaration on the development of an international north-south transport corridor. It was signed by Azerbaijan Deputy Prime Minister Shah Mustafayev, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Novak, and Iranian Road and Urban Development Minister Rostam Ghasemi.
The declaration was signed at a trilateral meeting held in Baku and and also addressed the need to create a working group on transport and transit issues through the territory of all three countries.The signatories also announced that a draft agreement on the Resht-Astara railroad would be signed within a month and another meeting would be held within the same time period.
Russia is ready to cooperate with Baku and Tehran in the development of the North-South international transport corridor, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said. The transportation of 30 million tons of transit and bilateral cargo is expected through the territory of the three countries by 2030. Negotiations will start by the end of 2022.
Armenia Willing to Unblock Transport Routes From Azerbaijan
Speaking at the seventh Eastern Economic Forum held in Vladivostok from September 5-8, 2022, the Armenian Prime Minister again declared his willingness to open Armenia to road and rail transport from and to Azerbaijan. “Opening communications in the region will create new opportunities for the economic development of the South Caucasus,” he said, adding that its implementation is also important for Iran, Russia, and Turkiye. Pashinyan also held bilateral talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “There is good progress in the work of the tripartite commission,” he said, referring to the tripartite working group headed by the Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Russian Deputy Prime Ministers.“We are very interested in this and we hope to resolve the remaining issues in the near future with Russia’s support.” He also said that Armenia hoped to “establish relations with Turkey with Russia’s support.”
Following Brussels, Five Armenian Detainees Released
On September 8, 2022, five Armenian detainees were released by a Baku Court after their sentences were reduced. All five were detained in December 2020 after being found in violation of the November 2020 ceasefire agreement that called for all soldiers from Armenia to be withdrawn. The move came after the August 31 statement from Charles Michel following the Aliyev-Pashinyan meeting in Brussels. Michel welcomed the news and welcomed the fact that the agreement to release the detainees came as a result of the bilateral talks in the Belgian capital. The same point was also echoed by EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus, Toivo Klaar. “Welcome news today regarding the release of five Armenian detainees,” he tweeted. “Noteworthy that the handover took place without intermediaries.” Likewise, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price also commented on the development. “A positive development for Armenia and Azerbaijan peace process,” he tweeted. “We hope all remaining detainees return home soon and Azerbaijan and Armenia continue taking steps to build trust and resolve outstanding differences.”
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