Fresh news from the Republic of Azerbaijan, in the South Caucasus region
On Monday, October 30, 2017, a grand inauguration ceremony was held at the new Port of Baku in Alat, Azerbaijan, for the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway, a key transport project linking Europe and Asia.
The plan put forward is that the 846-kilometer-long railway that strategically connects Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey will play a pivotal role in the Middle Corridor as part of the greater One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative.
One Belt, One Road (OBOR) Initiative
The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road, better known as the One Belt and One Road Initiative (OBOR), The Belt and Road (B&R) and The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a development strategy proposed by China’s paramount leader Xi Jinping that focuses on connectivity and cooperation between Eurasian countries, primarily the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and the oceangoing Maritime Silk Road (MSR).
The strategy underlines China’s push to take a larger role in global affairs with a China-centered trading network. It was unveiled in September – October 2013 for SREB and MSR respectively. Initially called One Belt and One Road, but in mid-2016 the official English name was changed to the Belt and Road Initiative due to misinterpretations of the term ‘one’.
In the past three years, the focuses were mainly on infrastructure investment, construction materials, railway and highway, automobile, real estate, power grid, and iron and steel.
Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) Initiative
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. The newly inaugurated railway opens new opportunities for the transshipment of cargo from China and the Far East to the Mediterranean region and Europe, over a shorter, faster land route, in 14-18 days.
Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan’s President and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s President, and First Lady Emine Erdoğan, Bakytzhan Sagintayev, Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Georgia’s Prime Minister, Abdulla Aripov, Uzbekistan’s Prime Minister, Tajikistan’s and Turkmenistan’s Ministers of Transport as well as other high-level dignitaries attended this global initiative inauguration ceremony.
“The BTK is the shortest and most reliable route connecting Europe with Asia. 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.
When President Erdogan spoke, he highlighted the strategic importance of this project for the revival of ancient-new Silk Road. He noted that with the completion and inauguration of the BTK project “the key leg of the Middle Corridor has now been completed.”
After the ceremony a symbolic driving of railroad spikes and the pulling of railroad switches took place, officially sending off the first cargo train along the BTK railway. The freight train arrived at the new Port of Baku, in Alat, after traversing 2,846 km from north-western Kazakhstan and crossing the Caspian Sea on a rail ferry. It will journey an additional 2,002 km in four days from Baku to the Port of Mersin in Turkey.
Diversifying Azerbaijan’s Economy
The BTK project is part of Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev’s larger strategy to diversify the country’s oil-rich economy and turn it into a trade and logistics hub in Eurasia. This strategy also includes the upcoming completion of the first phase of the New Port of Baku, in Alat, and the launch of the Alat Free Trade Zone expected in 2018.
Joining the Global Community
The Republic of Azerbaijan, located at the strategic crossroads of Europe and Asia and nearby sizable markets such as Turkey, China, Iran and Russia, is poised to become a top choice for foreign investors aiming to expand their business in the region.