Azeri,Georgian,Turkish Leaders Push Forward With Rail Project


US-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce USACC
July 24 2008

The presidents of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia came together in
eastern Turkey Thursday to push forward with a railway project linking
the three countries. The ceremony, broadcast live on television,
marked the beginning of construction of the 79-kilometer Turkish
section of a 180-kilometer railroad that will link Baku, Tbilisi and
the eastern Turkish city of Kars

The project, expected to cost about $450 million, involves the building
of tracks between Kars and Tbilisi and the upgrading of an existing
link between the Georgian and Azeri capitals.

Construction on the Georgian side began last year.

The railroad is expected to become operational in 2011 and carry 1
million passengers and 6.5 million metric tons of cargo annually,
forming a key transport connection between Asia and Europe, officials
said Thursday.

The three presidents – Abdullah Gul of Turkey, Ilham Aliyev of
Azerbaijan and Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia – hailed the project
as a new sign of flourishing ties between their countries, which in
2006 launched a major U.S.-backed oil pipeline from Baku to Turkey’s
Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

"This project will boost stability and welfare in the Caucasus,"
Gul said at the ceremony in Kars.

"It is open to all other regional countries which contribute to
stability and are committed to good neighborly relations," he said.

His remarks appeared aimed at neighboring Armenia, which remains
officially at war with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh
enclave and doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Turkey.

Increasing cooperation between Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan since
the dissolution of the Soviet Union has resulted also in a conduit
carrying Azeri gas to Greece, which will be extended to Italy and
the rest of Western Europe.