ArmInfo. If there is goodwill in Transcaucasia, transport communication will be unblocked, trade will begin to develop, the economies of both countries will receive a powerful new impetus for development, and people's lives will improve. It is important that such goodwill exists.
Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Alexei Overchuk told Rossiyskaya Gazeta about this. He recalled that on the basis of a joint trilateral statement by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Russian President Vladimir Putin, a trilateral working group was created under the joint chairmanship of the Deputy Prime Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Armenia and the Russian Federation, which was entrusted with unblocking economic and transport links in the region.
"From the very beginning, we agreed with our colleagues that we choose an approach based on common sense. The relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia are very complex, multi-layered, go deep into history. Many have endured a terrible grief, left their homes, lost the closest people. Their memory will be always honored. Today it is important to make sure that trouble does not return to people's homes, and for this it is necessary to heal wounds, learn to speak with each other and work together to create a common peaceful future, "he said.
According to Overchuk, the reality is that these peoples, close and friendly to us, were, are and will be neighbors. "People living there want to live peacefully, raise children and their grandchildren. All participants in the negotiations on unblocking economic and transport links in the region proceed from this. Everyone wants to build a better life for their peoples. Russia helps them in this," he said. According to the Deputy Prime Minister, negotiations at the Deputy Prime Minister's level began in absentia in January 2021, and three delegations sat down at the round table on January 30. "Never before have such issues been substantively discussed at such a level between Azerbaijan and Armenia. From the moment of signing the trilateral statement of the heads of our states on November 9, 2021 and the end of the forty-four-day autumn war, and until the start of negotiations, only a little more than two months passed. There are few examples in history, when the warring parties after such a short period of time would sit down at the negotiating table with the task of unblocking transport links and creating conditions for the development of the economies of their countries. All this makes the format of the negotiations special and emphasizes the desire of the participants to find a solution to the task set by the heads of state, "he said. From the very beginning, it was important to find a starting point, Overchuk said. "Nobody wanted the negotiations to end before they could start. This approach allowed us to move on to discussing all possible rail and road routes between the two countries. The possibilities of transport communication between the western regions of Azerbaijan and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic through the territory of Armenia are being considered. At the same time, tasks are being solved aimed at launching connection from Armenia to Russia through the territory of Azerbaijan or from Armenia and Russia to Iran through Nakhichevan. In addition, Armenia may have an opportunity to use Azerbaijani ports on the Caspian Sea to transport goods to the countries of Central Asia and from the countries of Central Asia to Armenia ", - he said.
Within the framework of the trilateral working group, there is a substantive conversation about the unblocking of the region. The key to solving this problem, according to the representative of the Russian government, is the unblocking of Armenia, which, since gaining independence, "has actually been a blocked country."
Overchuk recalled that Armenia does not have its own access to the sea. Armenia has very complicated historical relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan, and its borders with these countries are blocked. "Armenia has a small section of the land border with Iran, but there is a difficult terrain and bad roads that impede full-fledged transport links. In addition, Iran itself is experiencing restrictive measures, which also affects the situation," he said.
As the Deputy Prime Minister pointed out, Armenia has an opportunity to carry out transport communication with the outside world only through Georgia, where there is access to seaports and the Upper Lars international checkpoint - the only land route to Russia. This road passage has a limited capacity and is closed for traffic for several weeks a year due to weather conditions. Hundreds of trucks are accumulating there, standing and waiting for the road to open, traffic to resume, in order to carry goods to or from Russia. "This bottleneck hinders economic development, has a negative impact on migration processes and does not allow Armenia to fully reveal its potential and turn into a prosperous country," he said.
The lifting of the transport blockade in the region, he said, is important for Russia, the EAEU and all neighboring countries. At the same time, Armenia will become not only an important international transport hub connecting the Iranian ports of the Persian Gulf with the Black Sea ports, as well as Russian ports in the Baltic and the Pacific Ocean, but it will also be able to start building up its own production, as there will be access to new sales markets, and the factors constraining the possibility of exporting products from the country will become a thing of the past. In modern history, such opportunities have never opened up, and, undoubtedly, in this new configuration, Azerbaijan and Armenia will be the main beneficiaries, he noted. Russia helps them and all other countries in the region in this.
Within the framework of the working group, all possible rail and road routes connecting Azerbaijan and Armenia were investigated. In the spring, Russian experts from the Ministry of Transport, Rosavtodor and Russian Railways worked in the border areas of these countries. They surveyed each road and railroad and assessed the possibilities of commercial transport between the two countries. The condition of road surfaces, railways, bridges, pipes that lie under the roads was assessed. Unfortunately, almost all possible routes have fallen into disrepair, and the restoration of transport links requires serious investments. Based on the results of this expert work, the parties were able to outline further steps to unblock transport links. A large part of the work is also related to legal issues. There are no diplomatic relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia, there are no checkpoints, customs, everything that usually happens between neighboring countries. "Over the past 30 years, both Azerbaijan and Armenia have done everything to make movement between them impossible. These accumulated painful problems need to be addressed. An inventory of all international normative legal acts is being conducted. First of all, this concerns the CIS, because both Armenia and Azerbaijan are members of that organization. It so happened that every time some kind of multilateral agreements are signed, representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan make reservations about each other, excluding the spread of these agreements to the opposite side. Such reservations should be removed, "Overchuk pointed out.
According to him, for more than thirty years the state apparatus of the two countries systematically worked against each other, and now they need to look for solutions and find compromises. "It's hard for people, because they bear the burden of all the previous life and the history of relations between their countries. When all these solutions are found, and Azerbaijan and Armenia decide that they are ready to implement them, then it will be possible to proceed with the restoration of roads and after that resume transportation. The main thing is to see a good future, and, of course, it is important to ensure that no one now takes steps that further complicate these already difficult relations, "concluded Oleksiy Overchuk.