Tehran and Moscow have signed an agreement to finance and build an Iranian railway line along the Caspian Sea coast that Russia's President Vladimir Putin said would help connect Russian ports on the Baltic Sea with Iranian ports in the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf.
The 162-kilometer railway between Rasht and Astara on the border with Azerbaijan is seen as an important link in an embryonic International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC) intended to connect Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Russia and other countries via railways and sea.
"The unique North-South transport artery, of which the Rasht-Astara railway will become a part, will help to significantly diversify global traffic flows," Putin said on May 17 as he oversaw, via video-link, the signing of the agreement with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
"Without a doubt, this agreement is an important and strategic step in the direction of cooperation between Tehran and Moscow," Raisi said.
Iran's state news agency IRNA reported that the agreement is worth $1.6 billion.
Russia and Iran are seeking to strengthen their political, economic and military ties as they both face crippling Western sanctions.