Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project underway
By Messenger Staff
Friday, December 19Tbilisi hosted the fifth session of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway construction Coordination Council on December 16. The co-Chairmen of the Council are Minister of Economic Development of Georgia Lasha Zhvania and Azeri Transport Minister Zia Mamedov.
Zhvania highlighted during the meeting that the project is very important for all the countries involved and the economic crisis should not affect the development of the project. He also said that extra investments need to be attracted to realize the project, and that it will encourage the development of infrastructure alongside the railway line, creating extra jobs and improving the welfare of the population.
Zia Mamedov also underlined the vital importance of the project for both countries. Azerbaijan also hopes that before the railway’s construction is complete both countries will join the OTIF convention on railway forwarding, which will make it easier for the railway the function internationally.
The interstate agreement on the construction and subsequent operation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Akhalkalaki railway was signed by Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey on February 7, 2007. The project envisaged the construction of a Karsi-Akhalkalaki segment of new railway consisting of 68 kilometres on Turkish territory and 30 kilometres in Georgia. The former Tbilisi-Akhlkalaki railway is also to be rehabilitated. Azerbaijan issued a soft credit for USD 200 million to Georgia to realize the project, originally estimated to cost USD 422 million.
The railway should start functioning from mid 2011. Armenia is against this project, suggesting instead the rehabilitation of the existing Gumri- Kars railway, but Azerbaijan is categorically against involving Armenia in any kind of transit project.