An expensive railway connecting Armenia to neighboring Iran will not be constructed anytime soon, Transport and Communications Minister Ashot Hakobian acknowledged on Thursday.
The Armenian and Iranian governments have discussed the extremely ambitious project since the early 2000s. Shortly after taking office in 2008, then President Serzh Sarkisian announced that work on the rail link will get underway in the next few years.
However, his administration failed to attract an estimated $3.5 billion needed for building the 305-kilometer-long Armenian section of the railway that would mainly pass through the mountainous Syunik province. In January 2017, it decided to dissolve a state-owned company that was supposed to oversee the planned construction.
According to Hakobian, the project is not a top priority for Armenia’s new government because of its very high cost exceeding the entire Armenian state budget for this year.
“As things stand now, that idea is just a goal, there is no [concrete] project,” the minister told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “There have been studies showing that the construction of that railway would cost a lot of money. Therefore, it’s not part of our short-term plans at the moment.”
“The idea is good and, depending on the country’s development, if we can afford it in the future we could go for it,” he said. “But it is not topical now.”
According to official Armenian statistics, Armenian-Iranian trade stood at a modest $263 million last year. Iran also serves as a transit route for Armenia’s much greater trade with China.