The opening of track ceremony was attended by President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Bakytzhan Sagintayev, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and Prime Minister of Uzbekistan Abdulla Aripov.
The leaders of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia launched an 826-km (500-mile) rail link connecting the three countries on Monday, establishing a freight and passenger link between Europe and China that bypasses Russian Federation.
According to Georgia Rail the project effectively opens a new rail-only corridor from the Caspian Sea to Europe via Turkey, excluding the need for sea transportation with the opening of the Marmaray rail tunnel under the Bosporus.
"Several European countries have expressed an interest in this project and Azerbaijan is in talks with them", the Azerbaijani president also said, adding that Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries were interested in transporting their goods via the new rail link.
While most parts of the BTK railway were modernized, a 109-kilometer-long segment running from Georgia (30 km) into Turkey (79 km) was built.
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The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway will further strengthen Azerbaijani-Turkish relations, Erdem Eren, Turkish foreign policy expert and chief coordinator of the Beyaz Harekat political movement, told Trend Oct. 31. It may be mentioned that sleeper-car trains will link Baku to Istanbul, providing a unique opportunity to tourists to see three countries (Turkey-Georgia-Azerbaijan) in one ticket.
A railway worker in Agstafa, Azerbaijan.
"Turkey is expected to gain an income of $1 billion per year from the BTK", Eren said. Not so Armenia, which has frosty relations with Turkey and virtually none with Azerbaijan, which cut off ties in the 1990s after Armenian-backed forces took control of a large swathe of its territory in and around Nagorno-Karabakh.
Some 1 million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo will be transported on the line. "We also continue to cooperate in the military-technical field", the Azerbaijani president said.
The agreement for the construction of the BTK was signed in Tbilisi in 2007.