Bakhtadze: Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Project Is of Strategic Importance to Georgia

Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze stated that the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Project (BTK), which establishes a freight and passenger link between Europe and China, is of strategic importance to Georgia.

The PM said that according to the project, the railroad interconnecting station is to be located at the territory of Georgia – in Akhalkalaki.

 “This project is of strategic importance to our country and there is an agreement signed between three countries, in which the principles on project implementation are specifically defined. Most of the works are completed and we will conclude the project with the engineering decision that has already been taken,” he said.

Bakhtadze commented on the recent meeting held in Ankara, where the heads of the Russian, Turkish and Azerbaijan railway companies signed a Memorandum, saying the mentioned meeting was held under a different perspective and that based on the agreement signed between Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan, the consent of all parties is required for involving other players in the project.

Some media outlets report that after the signing of the memorandum in Ankara on May 6, the deal will grant access to the BTK to Russia’s eastern ports.

“Joining the BTK railway will allow cargo coming from Russia’s far east seaports to go westward to Georgia, Turkey and further westward to Europe, linking the Russian railway grid to the Turkish railway network for the first time,” the Caspian News reports.

Georgia’s Minister of Economy Natia Turnava says that Russia cannot join the project without Georgia’s consent.

The minister noted that the meeting in Ankara allegedly referred to some other issue.

“It may be about an issue of attracting cargo to our region, but no single party has the right to change something in this project, and this project is being carried out in the way we established and agreed on and it is in line with our sovereign interests," she added.

The project initially had to be completed by 2010 but was delayed several times and following a fifth trilateral meeting in February 2016, the three countries' foreign ministers announced that the railway would finally be completed in 2017.

Following the first test run by a passenger train from Tbilisi to Akhalkalaki on 27 September 2017, the BTK was inaugurated in the ceremony hosted by the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev in Alyat on 30 October 2017.

The Baku–Tbilisi–Kars project is intended to complete a transport corridor linking Azerbaijan to Turkey and therefore Central Asia and China to Europe by rail.

The line is intended to transport an initial annual volume of 6.5 million tons, rising to a long-term target of 17 million tons.

By Thea Morrison 

10 May 2019 11:09