By Narmina Mammadova
Turkey and Azerbaijan are active participants in the process of regional cooperation. Both countries effectively use their economic and energy capabilities, as well as the geopolitical position to expand bilateral and regional cooperation.
Two countries have gained good experience in the implementation of various projects of international importance, which are well known in the region and the world. One of such large-scaled projects is Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway.
Turkey plans to connect the port of Izmir to the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway corridor (BTK) by rail, the Turkish Ministry of Transport, Shipping and Communications told Trend.
The source said that this project is currently under development.
The source also noted that the connection of the port of Izmir with BTK contributes to the growth of cargo transportation in Turkey.
Negotiations on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project began on July 26-29, 1993 in Ankara at a meeting of the Mixed Transport Commission established between Turkey and Georgia. A protocol on the implementation of this project was signed between Turkey and Georgia on July 20-21 in Istanbul.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev expressed Azerbaijan’s readiness to participate in this project during his official visit to Georgia on June 14, 2004.
So, the Declaration on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey was signed at the opening ceremony of the Azerbaijani part of the main export pipeline Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan on May 25, 2005.
The logical conclusion of the project negotiations was the signing of the agreement on the beginning of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway construction during the Ilham Aliyev’s working visit to Georgia on February 7, 2007.
The construction of the Georgian section within the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway started on November 21, 2007 and in Turkish - on July 24, 2008.
Azerbaijan issued a loan to Georgia for $ 775 million with a minimum interest rate.
The solemn ceremony was held to mark the opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway on October 30, 2017 at the Baku International Sea Trade Port, designed to connect not only the three countries, but also entire continents.
According to the State Oil Fund, for the implementation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project, $ 640.3 million has been allocated by September 30, 2017.
The total length of the BTK railway is 846 km, with 504 km running thtough the territory of Azerbaijan, 263 km - Georgia and 79 km - Turkey.
The Istanbul Declaration was signed 29 October 2018 within the 7th trilateral meeting of Azerbaijani, Georgian and Turkish foreign ministers. Declaration stated that commissioning of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway would make a great contribution to the economic development of the three countries and facilitate competitive transportation between Asia and Europe and in Caspian Sea. The parties agreed to all the necessary support for increasing the volume of passenger and cargo transportation from the Trans-Caspian East-West Corridor through the BTK railway.
In addition, earlier the launch time of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway passenger trains has become known.
Azerbaijan Railways Closed Joint Stock Company told Trend that the organization of passenger transportation on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars route is planned for the third quarter of 2019.
Providing the shortest rail link between Europe and Asia, BTK plays an important role in the implementation of China's "One Belt, One Road" strategy and International North-South Transport Corridor.
In fact, the BTK railway route is the shortest way to deliver cargo from the Russian regions located in the Volga, Ural and Siberian Federal Districts to the Mediterranean ports of Turkey, and further to the countries of Africa and the Middle East.
At present, the BTK provides transportation from Kazakhstan to Mersin port. Some cargoes are delivered from Russia to Turkey and Europe.
The BTK railway has been constructed on the basis a Georgian-Azerbaijani-Turkish intergovernmental agreement. The project implementation began in 2007 and construction began in 2008. The line is intended to transport one million passengers and 6.5 million tons of freight at the first stage. This capacity will then reach 3 million passengers and 17 million tons of cargo.
The main purpose of the project was to improve economic relations between the three countries and attract foreign direct investment by connecting Europe and Asia.
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