Many of the inhabitants of Azerbaijan, including Nakhchivan, travel to Tabriz for medical treatment. To reduce their costs, two hospitals will be built in Julfa, the deputy head for cultural, social and tourism issues of the Araz free economic zone (FEZ) Adil Najafzade told Azerbaijani journalists visiting the Araz FEZ.
Hospitals that will be built in Julfa will probably treat heart, eye and dental diseases, as well as provide internal medicine services, treatment of infertility and other diseases, Najafzade said.
The Araz free economic zone covers 53,000 hectares. It begins in Julfa and extends to the villages of Khudaferin, Dzhananlu and Gulubeyli. The territory of Julfa totals 21,000 hectares. The biggest part of the zone which occupies 33,000 acres is located in the Gulubeyli-Khudaferin region.
According to Najafzade, the Araz free economic zone has a unique geological heritage. The main purpose of the management is to make it to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
There is also a possibility of establishing a joint museum which will exhibit both Iranian and Azerbaijani finds. In this connection, the initial plan has already been prepared, Najafzade said.
Establishment of an international tourism university to promote the Araz free economic zone is also on the agenda, Najafzade said.
"Opening of the new Gulubeyli-Khudaferin (Fizuli) border checkpoint will boost the development of tourism," Najafzade said.
Emphasising the great potential for the development of ecotourism in the Araz free economic zone, Najafzade said that in September 2013 this area will get the status of the second geological park.
"There are a lot of historical places. The beauty of the River Araz, forests, Araz and Khudaferin dams are quite attractive for tourists. Also, this is the area through which the Silk Road passes and may contribute to its recovery," Najafzade said.
First active institutions in the Araz free economic zone
Several large manufacturing establishments are operating in the Julfa district in the Araz free economic zone which was created nine years ago. Among these institutions are those cooperating with Azerbaijan.
The Amigo plant producing heavy vehicles and cars is the largest machine-building complex in Iran, the head of the industrial department of the free economic zone Said Alizadeh said.
According to him, lorries manufactured at the plant have already been bought by some private companies in Azerbaijan and 250 vehicles have been sold to Azerenergy JSC.
Management of the complex and economic zone plans to expand cooperation with Azerbaijan, Alizadeh said.
Another institution visited by the Azerbaijani journalists was the Jolka textile factory built in 2011 in the Araz free economic zone.
The head of the company Azim Delaviz urged Azerbaijani businessmen to work together to bring the company's products to the markets of the Caucasus and Russia.
"Our production is leading in Iran in terms of quality and volume. Our company is interested in cooperation with Azerbaijan to export goods to the Caucasus, Russia and the countries of the former USSR," Delaviz said.
Jolka's products are exported to the markets of Turkey, France and Italy. Initial investment in this company amounted to $50 million. In total, it is planned to allocate $350 million for the project. Construction of the plant is carried out through the joint investment of Iran and Turkey.
Institutions operating in the Araz free economic zone are exempt from taxes and duties for a period of 20 years. This also applies to foreign businessmen. Some Azerbaijani entrepreneurs have already invested in this area.
Head of the Araz free economic zone will visit Baku in April.