Speaking in a meeting with ICCIMA Head Gholam-Hossein Shafeie on Saturday, Vladimir Abedinov proposed to form a working group between the representatives of the chambers of commerce of Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Pakistan to explore various aspects of the trade through the mentioned route.

Expressing Russia’s willingness to strengthen trade relations with Iran, the official pointed to the western sanctions against Russia and said: “These sanctions have changed the transit and logistics routes in the region. Since the impact of sanctions has caused Russia’s trade relations to undergo significant changes, in this regard, we are looking for new transportation routes in the region.”

“Completion of the Rasht-Astara route is of great importance for Russia’s trade purposes. This [route] paves the way for Russia to access Pakistan,” Abedinov said.

He further noted that Russia could also access Pakistan and India by sending its cargoes to Iran’s northern ports by vessel and then transit them through Iran to Pakistan and India.

“This is a complex route; therefore, Russia seeks to replace it with the railway through Azerbaijan to Iran, Pakistan, and India,” he added.

He said the chambers of commerce of the four countries could set up a working group and submit proposals to their governments on the completion, renewal, and strengthening of railway routes after possible studies.

Shafeie, for his part, pointed to the current conditions as special for the whole region and considered it necessary to make special decisions in accordance with these conditions.

According to the ICCIMA head, considering the current situation, the Iranian government has made the issue of transit a priority in its goals and plans, although there are infrastructural problems in the port area on both the Iranian and Russian sides.

Gholam-Hossein Shafeie added that one of the problems in Iran’s maritime transport is the lack of Ro-Ro ships, and negotiations are underway to purchase some Ro-Ro ships, which could improve the maritime trade between Iran and Russia through the Caspian Sea. The Iranian official stressed that the speed of the railway in Iran is currently between 15-20 kilometers per hour, which is not a good indicator, and at the same time, Iran is facing a shortage of wagons that Russia can help solve.

He further mentioned some of the problems regarding rail transportation to Pakistan, saying: “The railway problems in Pakistan are not easily solved despite Iran’s efforts. For example, a shipment was sent by rail from Iran to Lahore, Pakistan, which took 35 days to arrive at the destination.”