Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey mull future cooperation on BTK

By Aynur Karimova

Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, the troika engaged in implementation of giant energy and transport projects, have met in Tbilisi to discuss the progress of construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, current problems, railway transportation among the three countries and future prospects of cooperation.

The talks held on February 12 as part of the 7th meeting of the trilateral Coordination Council on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project also covered the multi-billion Great Silk Road project, as well as large-scale projects carried out in the region for strengthening relations, developing the tourism potential and enhancing the economic-trade turnover among the states and nations.

Azerbaijan's Transport Minister Ziya Mammadov stressed the importance of the BTK project, which is expected to play an important role in development of economic, socio-cultural relations among the three countries.

Binali Yildirim, Turkish Transport, Maritime and Communication Minister, said his country supports this project which will unite Europe and Asia, and will do its best for successful completion of construction of the railway.

After signing a final protocol of the meeting, the transport ministers of the three countries held a press conference.

BTK cost may increase

Speaking at the press conference, Mammadov said the cost of the Georgian-Azerbaijani section of the railway, which now amounts to roughly $775 million, may increase due to current economic processes taking place in the world.

"In general, the cost of any project jumps, as initially the project is developed, and then, after conducting some analysis, the official price is set," he said. "Some $200 million has been allocated for the project under the first tranche, while the second tranche amounted to $575 million. The total cost of the project amounted to $775 million. The budget of the project for the current year reaches $150-170 million, but it can rise due to the current global financial problems."

Mammadov's such a statement was supported by Georgian Economy and Sustainable Development Minister Dimitry Kumsishvili.

BTK attracts interest

Yildirim believes that since the beginning of implementation of the BTK railway project, it has attracted the attention of Western countries and such Asian countries as China, which is located on the historical Silk Road.

He told Trend that the BTK railway will become the safest and most efficient transport corridor between Asia and Europe stretching not only via Turkey but also Azerbaijan and Georgia.

"It will become even more important after it is connected with the Marmaray project (in Turkey) and thus, connecting Europe with Asia," he said. "The BTK construction is underway and the rail transport via this route is expected to start in 2017."

Yildirim believes that the BTK project will further strengthen the neighborly and fraternal relations among Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan, and enable to supply the goods produced in these countries to the world markets.

“Taking this into account, for Turkey, BTK is a network having economic and cultural aspects,” Yıldırım said.

The BTK railway, being constructed on the basis of a Georgian-Azerbaijani-Turkish intergovernmental agreement, will play a significant role in the revival of the historical Silk Road and will enable expansion of the relations from Europe to the Anatolia, Central Asia and the Far East.

Azerbaijan's state oil fund SOFAZ finances the project in accordance with the Azerbaijani president’s decree 'On the implementation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project activities', dated February 21, 2007.

The peak capacity of the corridor will be 17 million tons of cargo per year. At the initial stage, this figure will be equal to one million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo.

The Tbilisi meeting is expected to become a significant milestone in the implementation of the BTK railway and to accelerate the completion of the project in a short term.

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Aynur Karimova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Aynur_Karimova

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