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Rouhani to finalize rail deal in Baku visit

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani is expected to finalize a deal with Azerbaijan over the construction of a rail link between the two countries when he visits Baku in August.

Iran and Azerbaijan are expected to finalize a deal to create a crucial rail link during the upcoming visit to Baku by the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. 

Javid Gurbanov, the head of Azerbaijan Railways, has been quoted by the country's media as saying that a key document over the project – which envisages connecting Iran’s northern city of Rasht with Azerbaijan’s Astara - will be signed when Rouhani visits Baku in early August. 

"President Hassan Rouhani is expected to visit Azerbaijan tentatively on August 8-10. A document on the financing of the project to build the Rasht-Astara railway may be signed during this visit," Gurbanov said.

He said, citing Iranian experts, that the cost of building the Rasht-Astara railway is projected at $900 million, Itar-Tass has quoted him as telling Azerbaijan’s ANS television.

"We have not conducted our own evaluation yet and we have requested relevant documents from Iran. We will inform the country's president after a joint evaluation of the documents by experts from Azerbaijan’s ministries of Finance, Economics and Emergency Situations," Gurbanov said.

The official further added that if the Azeri president approves financial assistance to Iran with the construction of the Rasht-Astara railway, a relevant intergovernmental document may be signed during Rouhani's visit to Baku, Itar-Tass added. 

The Rasht-Astara-Qazvin railway project envisages the construction on the territory of Iran of a new railway line connecting Azerbaijan's Astara to the Iranian cities of Astara, Rasht and Qazvin. 

Azerbaijan’s Deputy Minister of Roads and Urban Development Ali Noorzad said this past Saturday that the International Bank of Azerbaijan had signed a deal with Tehran to allocate a loan worth $500 million for the construction of the Rasht-Astara railway.     

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