Iran and Georgia announced the creation of a corridor stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea through Azerbaijan and Georgia back in April.
According to Georgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikheil Janelidze, the two countries discussed issues related to bilateral cooperation in energy, economy and the agricultural sphere and stated that due to the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Georgia and Iran, 2017 is a special year.
In early June, the agreement was signed by the heads of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways, Georgian Railways and Azerbaijan Railways respectively, after talks were held with regards to the technical and economic aspects of the project as well as facilitation of the transportation of goods.
Whilst this agreement was signed by the three aforementioned nations, the aim is for other countries and companies to utilise this corridor too.
The Black Sea is a highly strategic body of water that is located in Eastern Europe and Western Asia, bounded by Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. It is also connected to the Mediterranean through the Sea of Marmara and to the Sea of Azov through the Kerch Strait.
Once fully implemented, the Persian Gulf – Black Sea corridor is an opportunity which will bring regional countries closer to each other and decrease transportation costs of commodities. In addition, the project will also lead to cooperation between Iran, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Iran also sees this as an opportunity to improve relations with Georgia.
It was further stated that the transport corridor will transport goods from India, Iran and some Gulf countries to Europe and it is believed that the corridor will contribute to “the reconciliation of the people”.
In further meetings between Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri and Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili in Tehran, it was stated that “Iran can serve as a linkage for Georgia and other regional countries to the Persian Gulf, Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean, while Georgia is able to facilitate Iran’s access to the Black Sea.” There is expectation that this will bring about a sea change in the economy of the region, due to the cooperation between Tehran and Tbilisi. Another driver behind this initiative has been that countries including China, India and Malaysia are willing to use this alternative route.
The creation of the Persian Gulf – Black Sea corridor was negotiated over a number of months by Iran, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Italy and Greece. Iran is seeking to use this corridor as an alternative for the current route to Europe which passes through Turkey, due to a series of previous disagreements over the past few years between Iran and Turkey. However, there is now cautious optimism that those relations have scope to improve.
Bulgaria will utilise this new transport route via its ports in Varna and Burgas. In addition, Bulgaria’s road network can handle the traffic of goods, cargos and natural resources, once the corridor becomes operational.
This venture is yet another example of the magnitude of the One Belt One Road initiative and how since the Iran nuclear deal, Tehran has indeed been brought in from the cold, geopolitically and geo-economically. Iran is geographically well positioned and this is in part why China is economically supportive of Tehran. The creation of the Persian Gulf – Black Sea corridor demonstrates how the OBOR can stimulate economic growth and development within groups of nations, in this example to include Azerbaijan and also the aforementioned European nations. The multipolar world continues to gain traction and in the process is resolving long standing tensions between nations within regions. Crucially, this economic integration continues to develop what will be the backbone of the new geopolitical paradigm which will stretch from Vladivostok in the East to Lisbon, Portugal in the West.
Iran will grow to become a trade hub connecting the Middle East and Central Asia, due to its geographical location as previously mentioned, diverse economy and educated workforce. Iran can serve as an access to the Middle Eastern nations in the south and west, Central Asia in the north and Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east. Once peace and stability is achieved in both Iraq and Syria, they will integrate into this corridor which is precisely why there have been attempts to destabilise these nations. It is also why attempts to stymie Iran continue. However, the rebirth of the old Persian empire will continue to flourish as we have previously spoken about on many occasions.