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  September 1st, 2016 | Written by

Iran Seeking Participation in Nicaragua Canal

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  • Iran may be interested in backing Nicaragua canal.
  • Nicaraguan government says canal will be operational by 2020.
  • Nicaragua canal is $50 billion project.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has expressed his country’s readiness to be involved in a project to construct a canal across Nicaragua, a shipping route that would parallel the Panama Canal and connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, according to an Iranian news service.

Speaking last week during a trip to Nicaragua’s capital of Managua, Zarif said that Iranian state-run and private sector companies, whose representatives are currently touring of Latin America, can develop cooperation with Nicaragua to construct the multi-billion-dollar canal.

A feasibility study of the project has been completed and construction on the 172-mile waterway—which the Nicaraguan government says will be operational by 2020—has begun.

But the massive project—one of the world’s most ambitious engineering infrastructure schemes—isn’t without its critics, who voice concerns over the displacement of villagers, the source of its funding, and a lack of transparency, including which governments or entities are backing the project.

The Chinese government has repeatedly dismissed reports that it is bankrolling the project. The canal’s developer is the Hong Kong-based infrastructure engineering group HKND which had previously turned to potential backers in the European Union for financial support and political backing.

Now, Iran appears interested in providing at least some of the funding for the $50 billion project.

Zarif led a 120-strong delegation of Iranian business people and economic officials to Latin America on a trip which included Cuba, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, and Venezuela.

In Managua, Zarif met with Nicaraguan legislators and addressed a conference on opportunities for Iran-Nicaragua economic cooperation.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry has stated that the tour of Latin America is part of Tehran’s plans to boost non-oil exports. Zarif said Iran is seeking cooperative ventures in Nicaragua in fields such as mining, agriculture, nanotechnology, pharmaceuticals, banking services, and export insurance.