Leaders inaugurate Kars - Tbilisi - Baku railway

Turkish PM thanks Georgian PM for contribution to Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway

Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway will play a pivotal role to carry Chinese goods to Europe and will link Caspian Sea with Black Sea.

The leaders of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia launched an 826-km (500-mile) rail link connecting the three countries on Monday, establishing a freight and passenger link between Europe and China that bypasses Russian Federation.

"The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project was put into operation yesterday".

"Several European countries have expressed an interest in this project and Azerbaijan is in talks with them", the Azerbaijani president also said, adding that Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries were interested in transporting their goods via the new rail link.

This once again shows that all the projects involving Turkey and Azerbaijan and those initiated by the two countries are being implemented, noted President Aliyev.

The inauguration ceremony draw a host of dignitaries, including the Presidents of Azerbaijan, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Uzbekistan.

Around 79 kilometers of the BTK Railway pass through Turkey, while 246 kilometers pass through Georgia and 504 kilometers through Azerbaijan.

The BTK will have an initial capacity to transport 1 million passengers and 5 million tons of freight a year. Based on current cargo flows the company said it expects to re-route at least two million tonnes of existing cargo flows (principally dry cargo now transported by truck) between Turkey, the Caucasus, Russia and Central Asia. A trade volume of $120 million is expected with this move and trade with the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, which is an exclave in Azerbaijan bordering Armenia, Turkey and Iran, will be done in Turkish lira. "We also continue to cooperate in the military-technical field", the Azerbaijani president said.

"The opening of the railway is of historic and strategic significance", the Azeri president Ilham Aliyev said at a ceremony on Monday in the Caspian port city of Alat, south of the capital, Baku, to mark the departure of the first trains.

The agreement for the construction of the BTK was signed in Tbilisi in 2007.