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Baku-Akhalkalaki-Kars railway project in question

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, December 25
Baku-Tbilisi (Akhalkalaki)-Kars railway project still remains as one of the most important topics of discussion recently.

Based on the initial statement made by the Prime Minister of Georgia, Bizdina Ivanishvili, the project might be “looked over” as it might not be profitable for the Georgian side.

The statement of the Prime Minister was strongly criticized by the President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, who underscored that the new leadership of Georgia might derail an “historical project and chance” for Georgia.

A statement was also made by the Azerbaijan side, after what the Prime Minister made one more comment concerning the issue.

"Without any doubt, Baku-Tbilisi-Kars is a railway project of regional and global scale. The Kars-Akhalkalaki railway is one of the segments of this project," head of the Azerbaijani Transport Ministry's press service, Namig Hasanov told Trend on Sunday.

Hasanov said that the legal basis for this project is a tripartite statement by heads of states and an agreement between the governments of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.

"According to the current statement, the sides (Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey) took upon themselves the duties of this project's implementation. On the basis of this agreement, the Azerbaijani government provided a $775 million soft loan for the implementation of the Georgian part of the project," Hasanov noted.

He added that most regional states, countries of Central Asia and Europe expressed great interest in the project and supported its implementation.

Hasanov underscored that Azerbaijan is confident of this project being of colossal, strategic and economic importance to the development of the region and beyond.

"It should be noted that after its implementation, this project will become a part of the regional security system," Hasanov said.

He noted that Azerbaijan has always carried out its obligations under international agreements, and expects the same approach from its partners within these agreements.

Prime Minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili explained what he meant in his first statement. According to him, the railway is very important for the country from an economic and trade point of view and the new government has nothing against the project.

“I meant that the new railway should not disturb the working of the old central railway(and of Batumi and Poti ports). Our central railway is bigger than the section of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway on Georgian territory. However, taking the potential of the Kars-Akhalkalaki section into consideration, from the beginning it might seriously decrease usage of the central railway. However, I think that the issue will be regulated through negotiations,” Ivanishvili said.