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The Noise Around Iran-Azerbaijan Agreements and Their Real Value

Aliyev's visit to Tehran and the agreements reached have caused some concerns in Armenia – both among the public and in media. The reason for "concern" was that Azerbaijani and sometimes the Armenian media, that subconsciously helped them, hurried to announce that the Azerbaijani-Iranian agreement is an outstanding achievement, thanks to which "Baku stepped ahead of Yerevan."

In fact, both the definition "historic" in relation to the visit and the discussions about the possible Azerbaijani diplomatic victory are quite controversial.

It should be noted that since the signing of the Geneva agreements on lifting sanctions against Iran, the first visit of a delegation from Iran headed by a senior official (Iranian First Vice President Ishaq Jahangir) was done exactly to Armenia, which, given the characteristics of the diplomatic culture of Iran, it is more than a symbolic step and is a clear signal.

As for about a dozen of Iranian-Azerbaijani agreements signed in Tehran, they should not be seen as major achievements for Baku. After signing the agreement on the nuclear program and lifting the sanctions from Iran, of course, a new situation was created, and Iran needed to refresh its legal basis with all partner countries, including through signing new agreements. This process began with Armenia (at the level of state agencies) and of course, we will witness the signing of other agreements, which as already mentioned, is a natural process.

A great attention from both the Armenian and Azerbaijani media was paid to the signed agreement on joining the Iranian and Azerbaijani railways. However, "shocked" reaction of public towards this agreement is illogical and inadequate. Railway project Azerbaijan-Iran is by no means a surprise and will not be correct to say that it draws out the Armenian-Iranian railway project from the agenda.

First, it should be noted that the Russian-Azerbaijani-Iranian agreement on the construction of the North-South railway was signed in 2000 in St. Petersburg. Then, in 2005 an agreement was signed for building the railway line Qazvin-Rasht-Astara, according to which most of the 350-kilometer branch passes through the territory of Iran, and 8.5 kilometers through the territory of Azerbaijan. Most of the project has already been realized: the construction of 205-kilometer stretch of the Qazvin-Rasht and digging 15 of 22 tunnels was completed on June 30, 2015. However, construction of the railway in more complex, mountainous parts is still ahead.

Given the fact that this project is already about 16 years on the agenda, and about 11 years works are carried out in this direction, it is unclear why the signed agreements were perceived as "unexpected." It is not clear as well why many experts hurried to "bury" the project of the Armenian-Iranian railway. Despite its cost and complexity to its implementation, Armenian-Iranian railway is a great priority for Armenia. It is not only an  economic interest for us, but also a powerful tool to break the blockade in which Armenia and Artsakh are because of Azerbaijan and Turkey.

In addition, despite the ongoing construction of the railway Qazvin-Rasht-Astara, the same Iranian side periodically stresses the importance of the issue of the Armenian-Iranian railway. Moreover, a visit of an Iranian working group to Armenia is expected  to assess the railway project. All this indicates that the Iranian side is interested in the project.

If we try to summarize the above-mentioned, we can state that the existing “concern” among the society and in media is nothing more than a manifestation of the syndrome of "overestimation of the enemy and underestimation of our own role", for which the Azerbaijani propaganda machine has done a lot of work.

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