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Iran's President Rouhani heralds free trade with Caucasus and Eurasian countries

Report by Tehran Times; photos by Islamic Republic News Agency

TEHRAN - President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday that the purpose behind development of Iran's ties with countries in the Eurasian and Caucasus regions is to move toward "free trade."

Iranian President Hassan Rohani (L) with his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev in Baku

"Proximity and development of ties with Eurasian countries, the Caucasus region, especially the country of Azerbaijan, is very important and we should move toward free trade in the future," Rouhani told a press conference with his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev in Baku.

Rouhani arrived in Baku on Sunday morning to participate in a trilateral meeting with Russian and Azeri presidents.

According to Iranian Ambassador to Baku, the tripartite negotiations will open a new chapter in regional cooperation, resulting in convergence.

Rouhani is accompanied by a high-ranking economic and political delegation.

During the meeting, the Iranian and Azeri sides also signed six memoranda of understanding on banking and automotive industry, inter alia.

Under one of the agreements, Iran's Institute of Standards and Industrial Research and Azerbaijan's Ministry of Economy and Industry will cooperate on quality standards.

The central banks of the two countries also signed an MoU.

Other agreements include closer ties in tourism industry, cyber collaboration, and railway transport.

Over the past years, the two countries have particularly been emphasizing construction of a railway network.

In line with this, the transportation ministers of the two countries inked a protocol for constructing the North-South corridor.

The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is a multipurpose route for the transit of goods between Iran, Russia, Europe, India and Central Asia via shipping lines, railway, and land routes.

"The North-South international transportation corridor is an important project not only for our countries, but also for continents," stressed Aliyev.

Rouhani: Borders should remain as they are, calls for dialogue

During the press conference with the Azeri president, Rouhani also said regional challenges can be overcome through dialogue, insisting that Iran has always been eager to broker negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran as a neighbor to the Republic of Azerbaijan and Armenia has always tried to set the scene for dialogue and settlement of issues and will spare no attempt in this respect," Rouhani remarked.

Azerbaijan and Armenia have been at loggerheads over the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts, for more than three decades, with the latest clash in April.

Iran had already offered mediation between the two as President Aliyev took a formal visit to Iran in February.

In the session, President Aliyev expressed gratitude to Iran's positive role in the conflict, saying, "Iran has always and greatly respected Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and supported Azerbaijan's fair stance on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict."

"Today, I briefed President Rouhani on how the settlement process is going on," he said. "We see that we have great mutual understanding and upon this we build our relations."

... Payvand News - 08/08/16 ... --

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