Iran, Azerbaijan open border hydro dam on shared river

Iran, Azerbaijan open border hydro dam on shared river
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (L) and his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev open a joint dam project on Iranian-Azeri border on May 19, 2024. / bne IntelliNews
By bne Tehran bureau May 19, 2024

Iran and Azerbaijan on Sunday, May 19, opened a hydroelectric dam on their border, with officials calling the megaproject a symbol of “long-term cooperation” and “friendship and amity” between the two nations despite political disagreements in recent years, IRNA reported.

The Qiz Qalasi (Maiden Tower) Dam, built on the Aras River along the Iran-Azerbaijan border, was brought online by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev hours before the helicopter crash and subsequent search operation.

The two leaders walked on the 834-metre dam crest before sitting for a brief meeting and inaugurating the project prior to the fateful crash just south of the Azeri border.

Designed and built by Iranian engineers in 18 years, the hydro dam holds 62mn cubic metres of water in its reservoir, enough to supply water to agricultural farmlands in three regions on both sides of the border and generate 270-gigawatt hours of renewable electricity a year using two 40 megawatt powerhouses.         

Iranian Energy Minister Ali-Akbar Mehrabian said the dam would “regulate 2bn cubic meters of water annually” between Iran and Azerbaijan.

The Iranian state news agency IRNA called the dam “the largest and most important border project in north-western Iran” that would create jobs for 40,000 people and pave the way for the development of tourism and agriculture in the Iranian provinces of East Azarbaijan and Ardebil.

Addressing a ceremony to launch the dam, Raisi said commissioning the project would “create hope” among the people of Iran and Azerbaijan.

Relations between Iran and Azerbaijan have been strained since January last year in the wake of what Baku called a “terrorist attack” by a gunman on its embassy in Tehran that killed the diplomatic mission’s head of security.

Azerbaijan evacuated embassy staff and family members from Iran and closed the mission in protest at the attack which Iranian officials said was carried out on personal grounds, not political motives.

The Azeri Foreign Ministry said days ago Baku would reopen its embassy in Tehran but in a new venue.

“The bond [between Iran and Azerbaijan] is strong and rooted in their shared history, culture and beliefs,” Raisi told the ceremony.

Aliyev echoed a similar stance, saying no one “could create misunderstandings” between the two neighbours.