Azerbaijan, Iran to start construction of cross-border bypass at Astara

Azerbaijan, Iran to start construction of cross-border bypass at Astara
Iranian and Azerbaijani border officials met to give the bypass project new momentum.
By bne IntelliNews January 25, 2020

Border officials of Iran and Azerbaijan this week met to discuss a planned 1,300-metre multi-lane dual carriageway that will span the border of the two countries by the city of Astara located on the shores of the Caspian Sea, according to AzerNews. Astara itself essentially spans the border, with Astara, Iran, a short walk from Astara, Azerbaijan.

Trade between the neighbouring countries has increased significantly in recent years primarily because Azerbaijan uses its location between Iran and Russia to its advantage to form a trade hub. However, despite the increase in trade, the existing infrastructure linking Iran and Azerbaijan is antiquated. Huge queues of people are typically seen on both sides of the border gate facility, which dates back to the USSR era. Astara in Iran, with its beaches and temperate rainforest, is seen as a big tourist destination for Iranians and foreigners, especially visitors from the Caucasus.

Construction of the “Astara-Astara” highway has started, Iranian Deputy Minister of Roads and Urban Development Khayrullah Khademi has told local media.

In recent comments, he said that "the transit of products and the transportation of citizens between Iran and Azerbaijan is one of the main tasks." He added: "In this regard, a new border terminal has been built outside the city,"

It is believed the new bypass will connect with the main Iranian highway that runs by the northern border.

Rauf Mammadov, an expert and resident scholar on energy policy at The Middle East Institute, said that the new motorway would certainly be beneficial for cross-border trade.

“The project is a critical element of Baku's vision to enhance the country's capabilities as a North-South transit corridor. In 2018, Azerbaijan completed the revamp of the Alat-Astara highway which connects Baku with the Iranian border, and is currently working on further expanding it,” Mammadov said.

Social media abuzz as military man slips ring on counterpart's finger

The announcement of the new motorway became a mere side event as a social media buzz developed in response to scenes on camera that occurred when Iran’s Border Guard Commander Brigadier General Ghasem Rezaie met with his Azerbaijani counterpart Colonel-General Elchin Guliyev. The former placed his “aqeeq” religious ring on what appeared to be the wedding finger of the latter. The military men were quickly subjected to jokes and ridicule in a wave of social media response.

Jokes from Azerbaijani Twitter users included: “I guess this makes us Iran’s third wife.”


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