Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway begins its work
Grand opening ceremony of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway (BTK) will take place in Baku on October 30. This event is very important for Georgia, Azerbaijan and the entire region. Tbilisi hasn't decided yet which of the top leaders will go to Baku to participate in the ceremony - president, in other words the head of state, or prime minister, who, according to the constitution, has full authority. Both of them really want to participate in this historic event.
Preliminary agreement on the contruction of the BTK was reached back in 1993 as part of Turkey's Black Sea Economic Cooperation initiative, but the first real step was taken only in 2007. The opening of this railway was postponed several times, since 98 km section from Georgian district center of Akhalkalaki (with mainly Armenian population) to the Turkish city of Kars passes through highlands, where temperature drops to -20 degrees and below during winter.
Nevertheless, construction works have been successfully completed, and experts from three neighboring countries have already tested this route. Total length of the BTK is 828 kilometers. Director of "Marabda-Kartsakhi Railways" Oleg Bichiashvili said in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza that at the first stage, the BTK capacity will amount to 5 million tons of cargo a year, but in the future it may reach 15 million tons. As for passenger traffic, in the coming years it may reach one million passengers a year. Oleg Bichiashvili didn't hide the fact that management of "Marabda-Kartsakhi Railways" wanted to hold launching ceremony of the BTK in Akhalkalaki, in other words, directly on the Georgian-Turkish border. But leaders of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey decided differently. This way they clearly stressed enormous geopolitical significance of this project both economically and politically.
Georgia's former Finance Minister David Iakobidze, who participated in the negotiations on the South Caucasus Corridor, said in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza that the BTK, like the other parts of this corridor, including the entire Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey pipelines network, could increase Georgia's GDP by several times within the next 10-15 years.
Armenia won't be a part of this lucrative international economic project
Meanwhile, Tbilisi notes that due to unresolved Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, one of the three countries of the South Caucasus - Armenia - won't participate in this "projects of the century", which is bad, first of all, for Armenia itself. "The fact that Armenia doesn't participate in it causes great harm to Armenia itself. Its very problematic economic situation only gets worse. In addition, no one denies that this whole project would be even more successful with the participation of Armenia," political analyst Giorgi Khukhashvili told Vestnik Kavkaza, expressing regret that "political motives prevail over economy" in Yerevan.
"But this is a problem created by Armenia itself. In the historical perspective, it will have to pay a very high price for its own fatal mistake and isolation from regional projects," he said, adding that he doubts that Yerevan will agree to end regional self-isolation in the near future.