Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan are in talks for the establishment of a joint bank whose branches would conduct financial operations in the two countries.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Azerbaijan’s Trend News Agency, Iran’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi noted that in addition to the joint bank, the two neighbors are also discussing the opening of branches of the two countries’ banks in Baku and Tehran.
Vaezi, who is also co-chairman of Iran-Azerbaijan intergovernmental commission, added that a number of Iran’s private banks are interested in entering Azerbaijan’s banking market.
The Iranian minister said the main obstacle in the way of banking cooperation between Tehran and Baku is the existing sanctions against Iran’s financial sector, which do not allow cooperation between the two countries’ banks to reach an appropriate level.
“There is a branch of Bank Melli Iran in Azerbaijan, but it is not active,” Vaezi noted, adding that preliminary talks on the expansion of banking cooperation between the two countries have been already held and the existing problems are expected to be solved during a forthcoming visit to Iran by Governor of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan Elman Rustamov.
Vaezi, however, did not mention the exact date of Rustamov’s visit.
The Iranian minister also touched upon the issue of Iranian money that is currently frozen in the Azerbaijani bank accounts and whose amount has been estimated at $200 million.
“The representatives of the banking sectors of Azerbaijan and Iran are discussing the use of this capital,” he said, adding, “A part of these funds is planned to be directed to the [Iranian] oil sector, and this was discussed during my last visit to Baku. Another part of the funds is to be used to increase the capital of Bank Melli Iran.”
Vaezi emphasized that further development of the two countries’ banking cooperation is necessary for expansion of trade relations between Tehran and Baku.
“Currently, the trade volume between our countries is about $500 million…. I think that it’s not a very good indicator for the two neighboring countries and people so close to each other. Azerbaijan and Iran have set a goal to increase this figure by four times to $2 billion,” he said.