BAKU-TBILISI-KARS

The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan
Ilham Aliyev:

Azerbaijan is the connecting bridge of Asia with Europe. We are now strengthening our transport infrastructure. New airports, highways and roads are constructing in different cities. Now are making large investments into our maritime transport and railway system. In other words, the transport sector will play a very important role in the future. Another important project in the region is also connected with this.

To connect Turkey and Azerbaijan by railway - to launch the railway route Kars-Akhalkalaki-Tbilisi-Baku is one of our key objectives and we will achieve this. In this case, both Turkey and Azerbaijan will be connected by railway; all cargo will be carried out via this route. At the same time, it is clear that the occupational country occupying of our lands, conducting aggression against us - Armenia will be kept out of all these projects.

 (From the speech made at the II Congress of World Azerbaijanis. March 16, 2006)

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Due to its favorable geographical location, Azerbaijan takes an active part in the implementation of international and regional projects. After the large transport corridors like TRACECA, "North-South", for several years a new major project is on the agenda: Baku-Tbilisi-Kars. By joining this new railway link project, Azerbaijan took another step designed for the future. Can be argued beforehand that, in addition to the possible creation of economic supports, as well as the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is a very important factor in confirming the Azerbaijan’s influence in the region, currently is transforming to the Transit Center.

The implementation issue of the project Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway link, one of the international projects, that Azerbaijan pays special importance, is in the focus of attention of the governmental leaders and railway officers of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. This will open up great opportunities to establish strong transport links of each three countries, as well as other countries, that are interested to use the services of the transport corridor.

Let's look at the process of actualization of a new railway link project Baku-Tbilisi-Kars in chronological sequence.

HISTORY

Negotiations on a project of the new railway link Baku-Tbilisi-Kars were started as early on July 26-29, 1993 in Ankara at the meeting of Joint Transportation Commission, created between Turkey and Georgia. On July 20-21, 2002 in the Turkish city of Istanbul, at the meeting of the Ministers of Transport of Turkey and Georgia signed a protocol about implementation of the project, suggesting undertake preparatory work for the project. The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, during his official visit to Georgia on June 14, 2004, during a joint press conference with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, expressed his support for the project of construction of the railway from Georgia to Turkey and readiness of Azerbaijan to take part in this project.

Since then, negotiations in the direction of implementation of the project were further activating. Thus, over the period there have been a number of meetings and also towards the implementation of this railway link.

At the meeting, dedicated to the development of transport links between Azerbaijan and Turkey and talks on Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, which was held on August 2-5, 2004 in Ankara, the parties came to an agreement, that in the first instance, to held preparation of the project on conducting and consultation of engineering and exploratory works.

At the Conference of Ministers of Transport, held on November 14, 2004 in Baku at the initiative of the European Commission, the Azerbaijani, Turkish and Georgian parties have signed a joint statement on project’s importance and incurring a regional character.

On December 28, 2004 held the next meeting in connection with the project, where parties agreed to establish a joint working group.

Here we should point out one important fact. Thus, on May 25, 2005, at the opening ceremony of the Azerbaijan part of the main export pipeline Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan named after Heydar Aliyev, signed an important document. The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili and the President of the Republic of Turkey Ahmet Necdet Sezer signed the Declaration on the project of connecting railway route Baku-Tbilisi-Kars between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. This Declaration, in fact, was demonstration of leaders of all three countries, as far as you need a project Kars-Akhalkalaki-Tbilisi-Baku.

On July 21, 2005 held another meeting. The company "Yuksel Domanic" was declared the winner of a tender held by the Republic of Turkey for the purpose of marketing works and preparation of feasibility study documents of the project. It was decided to complete the engineering and design works by the end of the same year, and to conduct a feasibility study till the middle of 2006.

On September 19-20, 2005 in Ankara, during tripartite meetings of working groups of railways and transport ministers of Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, have been made discussions on the implementation of this important project. At this meeting, to the Turkish and Georgian sides were presented a draft agreement on a new railway  link route Baku-Tbilisi-Kars, prepared by Azerbaijani side, has also been agreed to establish the Coordinating Council.

On December 5-7, 2005 in Tbilisi and on May 4-5, 2006 in Ankara held meetings of working groups.

On July 13, 2006 in Tbilisi held the fifth session of Working Groups, led by Deputy Ministers of Transport.

On October 13, 2006 in Baku in the Ministry of Transport of Azerbaijan Republic held a regular meeting with the Minister of Economic Development of Georgia I. Chogovadze.

On December 25, 2006, the Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli arrived in Baku on an official visit. The same day, held one-on-one meeting between the Prime Ministers of two countries Arthur Rasizade and Zurab Nogaideli. Prime Minister of Azerbaijan A. Rasizade on an interview to journalists on results of negotiations, stated that in January of the next year (2007) works on documentation of the project Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway will be completed, the appropriate contract will be signed. Construction and restoration works are expected to begin in May.

The latest version of the project Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway link was discussed by Ministers of Transport of states-parties on January 12, 2007 in Tbilisi. In this meeting, the Minister of Transport of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ziya Mammadov and the Minister of Economic Development of the Republic of Georgia Giorgi Arveladze have discussed economic and technical issues of construction of the railway Baku-Tbilisi-Kars. As a result of talks between the Ministers, two documents have been signed. The Minister of Transport of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ziya Mammadov noted, that negotiations were productive, documents related to the framework agreement and intergovernmental financial and credit allocations were initialed after discussions of all items. The Minister stressed, that after studying the documents by the heads of governments, will be determined agencies, to whom would be given permission to sign those. After these processes, documents will be submitted to Parliaments for approval, thereby draft of the agreement will enter into force. And after that, will be an agreement between the implementing agency and the banking agency. I hope that it will be solved soon. Because both sides are interested to start works without wasting the time.

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has demonstrated his strong position concerning the implementation matter of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway link, as well as in relation to other important issues.

 In the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers on the results of the first quarter, held on May 8, 2006, The Head of State returned to this question again: "Already the second quarter started and I'm sure the results will be good. In general, it appears that 2006 will be the most successful year for Azerbaijan. This year will be put into exploitation oil and gas pipelines Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum.  I am sure that this year we can start construction of the railway Baku-Tbilisi-Kars. This was an issue of detailed conversations with the Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey, participating in the OEC summit. Azerbaijani side once again noted that Azerbaijan even today from his side ready to take financial obligations and it seems we can see outlines of the future consortium. This road is very important for us. This road connects Asia with Europe and construction of the road will be fully contributed to national interests of Azerbaijan in all aspects.

The logical apex of negotiations on the project was signing of the agreement about starting of the project on construction of the railway Baku-Tbilisi-Kars, during the visit of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev to Georgia on February 7, 2007.

Thus, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev paid a working visit to Georgia on February 7, 2007. On the same day held the meeting between the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and the President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili in Tbilisi.

At the meeting it was noted the successful development of relations and cooperation between Azerbaijan and Georgia in the economic sphere. Presidents particularly emphasized the importance of the project Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, in terms of both bilateral and regional relationships. It was noted that this cooperation will play an important role in improving the welfare of our peoples. At the meeting also discussed a number of issues of mutual interests.

On February 7, 2007 in the building of the Parliament of Georgia, held the trilateral meeting between the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, the President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili has stressed the importance of this meeting and of the project Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, expressed that this project will contribute to the development of regional cooperation.

The President Ilham Aliyev, speaking of the need for the project of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, told that this project will unite us more closely, will further strengthen regional cooperation. This project will also bring stability to the region and in general, in the economic interests of our countries and peoples. Speaking of the importance of Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline, the Head of our State noted that commissioning of Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline will further strengthen our relations. There is cooperation in the field of energy between three countries, but development of relations in the non-oil sector also is important, and currently are conducted specific activities in these areas.

The President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev noted that Azerbaijan will increase production and export of oil and gas in 2007, and told that works done today, will also contribute to developing and strengthening of cooperation between two countries and peoples, as well as of regional cooperation.

The Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaking about the project of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, called it the "Iron Silk Road". He noted that these three major projects, including Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline, make a significant contribution to the stability and economic development in the region and stressed their importance for the prosperity of our people. The Prime Minister said that the railway project, linking Asia and Europe, is an example of regional cooperation.

On the same day (February 7, 2007), in the building of the Parliament of Georgia held the ceremony of signing the documents of the tripartite summit of regional cooperation Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey.

First the President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili, then the Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev made a statement.

From the statement of the President of the Republic of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili:

We know that in our region are planned other important projects as well, there are also new projects that are planned for the future. However, among these projects, this project is most important for further improvement of lives of ordinary people, citizens and our people. This project has a dual political meaning for us and, in general, will provide a basis for forming of the completely new situation from a strategic point of view, will contribute to further rapprochement of three countries together. From one side Central Asia, China, and from the other side Europe will unite in this space. We can already talk about the beginning of the new stage. This can be attributed to the the Silk Road restoration project. This means that the project will bring benefits to each country, will also be beneficial for our partners. This project is the key to the success of our future steps. All three countries will do their best and will continue cargo carriages.

From the statement of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan:

We are excited with participating of the President of Azerbaijan respected Ilham Aliyev in this ceremony. Because along with being together today, we are sending very important message to the world. How can be regional cooperation – we are already demonstrating an example of that. At the regional cooperation we are doing the third step. The first step, as you know, was Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. The second was Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline, the project with the different name - "Shah Deniz". And now we are doing the third step. This is the project Baku-Tbilisi-Kars, the event of transformation of the historical Silk Road to the railroad. Certainly, there are various projects coming after this project. However, this solidarity is not limited to the regional cooperation. At the same time, each station of this railway, becoming as the station of peace, a station of friendship and solidarity and sends its message to the world. The situation in Caucasus is known to everyone. But now the Caucasus, by sending completely different message about this regional cooperation, demonstrates its establishment as the center of solidarity. 

From the statement of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev:

Of course, in implementing of these projects there have been place numerous important factors - professional persons, opportunities supporting us financial institutions, activities of foreign companies with their investments worked together with us. But first of all, it is will and determination to of three countries. Documents to be signed today in connection with the construction of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway are the logical result of these works. If you pay attention at the names of these major projects, you can see that they have a similarity: Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars. In other words: Baku with Tbilisi and three cities of Turkey. This shows that the cooperation between three countries is yielding results. This indicates the success of our strategic direction and our policy. This is the sign of our policy’s triumph. Especially, the triumph of independence of the newly independent states: Georgia and Azerbaijan. We have proved that we can live as an independent state and live well, we can decide all the challenges we face.

The same day the documents have been signed with the participation of the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili and Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

First the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, then the President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili and the Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan have signed a "Tbilisi Declaration on the Review of regional cooperation."

"The agreement on the new railway route Baku-Tbilisi-Kars" signed by the Minister of Transport of Azerbaijan Ziya Mammadov, by the Minister of Economic Development of Georgia Giorgi Arveladze by the Minister of Transport of Turkey Binali Yildirim."

"Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Government of Georgia on the principles and terms of financing, designing, construction, rehabilitation, renovation and operation of the railway section Marabda-boundary of the Republic of Turkey (Karksahi) in the framework of the implementation of the project on the new railway route Baku-Tbilisi-Kars", signed by the Minister of Transport of Azerbaijan Ziya Mammadov, Minister of Economic Development of Georgia Giorgi Arveladze.

"Credit Agreement under the terms of financing of railway section Marabda-boundary of the Republic of Turkey", signed by the Minister of Transport of Azerbaijan Ziya Mammadov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of JSC International Bank of Azerbaijan Jahangir Hajiyev, General Director of JSC "International Bank of Azerbaijan - Georgia" Samir Veliyev and Director of Limited Liability Company "Marabda-Karksahi" Ramaz Giorgadze.

The President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, on February 21, 2007, signed the Decree on measures of implementing the project of the new "Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway." The Decree states: "As a result of successful works on the socio-economic development of the Republic of Azerbaijan, are achieved high growth in the country's economic development, enhanced economic power of the state, and activities in this area sequentially continues. Beginning of functioning of the main export pipeline Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and commissioning of the South Caucasus Pipeline Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum, are historical fruits of the oil strategy of Heydar Aliyev and, therefore, the possibility to achieve exporting of Azerbaijan’s oil and gas to the world market helps to further enhancing the effective cooperation in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy, provides strengthening of state independence and sovereignty. Successfully implementing these global projects in a short time period, from a historical point of view, causes of getting the leading position in the region, as well as increasing the weight in the political and economic processes of the world.    

At the same time, due to the geopolitical situation of Azerbaijan and its location at the crossroads of trade routes connecting the various areas of the world, our country became one of the important members of the TRACECA program, aimed at the creation of Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia which has great prospects and conducted in framework of restoration of the Great Silk Road. Implementation of a number of large-scale programs related to this program, resulted to achieve further expansion of beneficial economic relations with near and distant foreign countries, to rapidly increase commodity turnover; Azerbaijan became an important country in the region in terms of volume of cargo carriage.

In order to create a new transport corridor, which will be important in the diversification of the transport infrastructure, in the further increasing international cargo carriages through the territory of Azerbaijan, as well as in the development of regional cooperation, based on our initiative, the Presidents of the Republic of Azerbaijan, of the Republic of Georgia and of the Republic of Turkey signed the joint Declaration on "Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway link." This implies a direct railway link between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.

In general, the project of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway link aims to ensure continuous development and sustainable security. The project of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway link is of great political and economic significance for Azerbaijan, also serves to establish direct transportation links of the Caspian region and Central Asian countries to Europe, direct access of goods and passengers passing through the territory of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey to Europe, finally, accelerate the integration of Azerbaijan to Europe. According to the regulation issued in order to provide solutions of financial and other arrangements for the project and coordinate the activities of state agencies, established the commission chaired by the Minister of Transport of Azerbaijan Ziya Mammadov.

 At the same time, pursuant to Decree, coordination with the Government of Azerbaijan for the implementation of the "New Railway Link Baku-Tbilisi-Kars" is vested in the Ministry of Transport of Azerbaijan.  The Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Ministry of Transport of the Republic of Azerbaijan are in charge to prepare during in a month period the draft of the State Programme for the Development of the State Railway of Azerbaijan for 2007-2010, then to submit to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Preparation of the program has aim to provide ongoing increase of international carriages due to implementation of the project of "New Railway Link Baku-Tbilisi-Kars." In this direction have already been doing certain activities.

Necessary to remind that according to the Framework Agreement for implementation of the project Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, for implementation of the project Azerbaijan will give to Georgia a credit amount of $ 200 million with the interest of 1 per cent per year over 25 years. In the early years by railway is expected to transport 5 million tons of cargo, and in the coming years at the level of 15 million tons of cargo.

Participation of Azerbaijan, its transport structures in existing international transport corridors, could not but to disturb our foes. A group of pro-Armenian American congressmen, to create impediments to the implementation of a new railway Baku-Tbilisi-Kars, express an opinion on the existence of the railway Kars-Gyumri. It is, in fact, the ratio of attitude to the Azerbaijan’s voice of truth, entrained into an undeclared war, within double standards. 

In addition, it should be mentioned that the length of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is 98 kilometers. 68 km of which will be constructed in the territory of Turkey and 30 km will be constructed in the territory of Georgia. Initial assessment showed that the cost of construction of the road will be 250 million USD. 200 million USD of which will be spent in the Turkish section, and 50 million USD will be spent in the Georgian section. However, the total cost of the project is estimated at 400 million USD. Turkey has undertaken a feasibility study for the project and for that allocated funds in the amount of 1 million USD. The new road is much shorter than the old one. This proves once again the economic efficiency of the project of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway.

Evidence of the full support of this opinion, is inclusion of the project into the final report of Trans-European Railways Highways (March 2005) of Economic Commission for Europe at the UN as a project of utmost priority with the evaluation point 4.

Azerbaijan State Railway, which plays a very important role in the economic development of Azerbaijan, taking part in international and regional projects, maintains its infrastructure, successfully continues to meet the transport needs of the population and the state. Participation of Azerbaijan in implementation of the project, which contributes to regional stability, peace and economic benefits, it is important at the approach of any prism. According to studies, is not excluded the use of Russia in the future of the services of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. Russia is interested in this project, and discusses opportunities for cooperation in this area. According to researches of experts Russia’s expression of interest to participate in the project Baku-Tbilisi-Kars is natural. If Russia will join to this transportation artery, it can take cargoes from different countries, ranging from China up to the European countries, and vice versa. Most analysts think that in the near future well as other States will be interested in this project. As they say, the process of transformation of the Ancient Silk Road into the Silk Railways started.