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Success of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars depends on growth of ties with China

The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway (BTK) will create a transport corridor that will connect Europe with Asia, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said during an opening ceremony of the BTK in Baku.

"The success of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars is associated with growing economic ties with China. The current freightliner will reach its destination within eight days after leaving China; it is a record time,” Kvirikashvili said.

The host of the event, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, noted that BTK is the most reliable and shortest route between Europe and Asia.

"At the initial stage, 5 million tons will be transported by the BTK and 17 million tons of cargo will be transported thereafter. BTK turns Eurasia into an important part of the transport map. This road will serve development of tourism, stability and security, increase the amount of mutual investment, strengthen the geopolitical significance of our countries ... Some did not believe in the successful completion of the BTK project. Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia have successfully completed it,” he said.

Present at the ceremony, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in turn supported the assessment of his Azerbaijani counterpart.

"We connect Europe with the ports of Aktau in Kazakhstan and Turkmenbashi and Turkmenistan. BTK will transport 6 million tons of cargo and 1 million passengers. By 2030, these figures will reach 17 million tons of cargo and 3 million passengers, "Erdogan said.

EADaily reported earlier that today in Baku in the presence of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Bakhytzhan Sagintayev, as well as Uzbek Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov, the inauguration ceremony of the BTK railway took place. It is a transport corridor, which will become a new railway route linking Europe and Asia bypassing Russia.

The railway was built on the basis of an Azerbaijani-Georgian-Turkish interstate agreement, and the project was financed by the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan in accordance with the presidential decree "On Implementing the Activities of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Project" on February 21, 2001. The construction began in 2007, but later it was suspended: because of this, the date of commissioning of the BTC was also moved. For the construction of the Georgian section, Azerbaijan allocated a loan to Georgia for $775 million at 2% per annum. The opening was repeatedly postponed for various reasons from 2010.

The total length of the BTK is 826 kilometers. Within the framework of the BTK project, a new 105-kilometer branch of the railway line was built, of which 76 km - in Turkey and 29 km - in Georgia. In addition, in Georgia, the 183-kilometer section of the Akhalkalaki-Marabda-Tbilisi railway was reconstructed to increase the carrying capacity to 15 million tons of cargo per year. The peak capacity of the corridor will be up to 17 million tons of cargo per year. At the initial stage, this indicator will be at the level of 1 million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo. The Ministry of Economy of Georgia earlier noted that after the commissioning of the railway line, it will employ up to 2,500 people.

Commenting on the opening of the railway BTK, an expert on economy, the executive secretary of the opposition movement REAL Natig Jafarli stressed the political component of the project, expressing doubt about its economic feasibility.

"Azerbaijan, as the main donor of this project, spent about $1 billion on its implementation. The profit from this road in the first years is unlikely to exceed $20-30 million. In addition, there are significant natural obstacles on the way" from Beijing to London "it is a ferry across the Caspian Sea and the need to change the wheel before moving to Turkey and Europe, as it is known, the standard of the railways of the Russian railways differs from the European one. All this is a waste of time. It will be a miracle if the project starts paying off in 25-30 years,” Jafarli is quoted as saying by Jam News.

According to Paata Tsagareishvili, an expert of the Hub Georgia Center for Transport Studies, the agreement with Azerbaijan is concluded in the way that Azerbaijan, which provided Georgia with a loan for the construction of the road, will determine the tariff policy and decide cargo of which countries can be transported by BTK. According to him, sending their cargoes to the BTK means for Tbilisi cutting down the functionality of the western part of the Georgian Railway (GDZ) and at the same time its Black Sea ports of Poti and Batumi, and, consequently, revenues to the budget.

"Chinese businessmen are very popular with the route Chongqing - Dostyk - Moscow - Brest - Lodz - Duisburg. It is even called the New Silk Road. This railway connects China and Kazakhstan with Poland and Germany through Russia. Only this year over the route Chongqing - Duisburg passed more than 100 trains. While in Georgia from China for two years, only two members," said the expert, commenting on the possible participation of Chinese companies in the BTK.

Paata Tsagareishvili says that the reorientation to the South Caucasus has not yet occurred and may not happen for several reasons: firstly, because the Russian route is "reversible" (trains from China and China follow loaded ones, whereas from Georgia to China - empty); Secondly, South Caucasian logistics companies cannot stand competition with powerful Russian ones, which exceed them by an order of magnitude in the search, distribution and transportation of goods.

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