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Ilham Aliyev: Turkey-Azerbaijan friendship, brotherhood play stabilizing role in region

Ilham Aliyev: Turkey-Azerbaijan friendship, brotherhood play stabilizing role in region

An official welcoming ceremony has been held for Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Baku today. It involved upgrading infrastructure in Azerbaijan and Georgia, rehabilitating 153 km of unused 1 520 mm gauge line from Marabda to a break-of-gauge facility at Akhalkalaki, and building 110 km of 1 435 mm gauge line to Kars via a 4·4 km tunnel under the Georgia-Turkey border at Kartsakhi.

While the line offers a shorter route for transporting Chinese goods to Europe by rail, "the competition is really tough", said Akif Mustafayev, the permanent representative in Azerbaijan of the intergovernmental commission of Traceca, an EU-backed transport programme.

The opening of the 846km route marks the completion of a 10-year project to provide an alternative to existing rail services carrying cargo from Asia to Europe that go via Russian Federation and Iran.

A railway connecting Gyumri, Armenia, and Kars in Turkey is another victim of the long freeze in Turkish-Armenian ties.

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Erdoğan also spoke about the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) Railway, which became operational on Monday with a grand ceremony in Baku: "Opening the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway enables us to stand at a stronger position in linking Asia to Europe via railways". At an initial stage, this figure will be one million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo.

Ilham Aliyev said that today the Turkey-Azerbaijan friendship, brotherhood and unity is an important factor for the region and plays a stabilizing role in the region. "It's planned to carry 5 million tons of cargo in the first stage and 17 million tons in the next stage", stated Azerbaijan's President Aliyev.

"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.

After departing China, trains will cross into Kazakhstan at the Khorgos Gateway before being transported by ferry across the Caspian Sea toward Baku and then heading to Western Europe via Georgia and Turkey.

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