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BTK route aims to be integral to China's Belt and Road initiative

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-11-01 10:58

BAKU -- The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway line is the shortest and reliable link between Asian and European continents, the Azerbaijani political analyst Fikret Sadikhov said in an interview with Xinhua correspondent on Tuesday.

"This route changes the whole transport architecture of the region and makes it very significant. Not only Azerbaijan, but also many Asian and Caspian states can make effective use of it," he said.

The BTK railway line was officially launched on Monday which directly connects Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey with onward access to the European rail. The Heads of state of Azerbaijan and Turkey, along with the Prime ministers of Georgia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, attended opening ceremony held outside Baku, at the route's eastern terminus.

The Azerbaijani expert underlined the strategic importance of the BTK amid China's Belt and Road Initiative. He called the project an important part of the so-called Silk Road route, which will pave the way for better trade conditions between China and Europe via Azerbaijan.

"I think China will also take advantage of the BTK line," he said.

"Before the implementation of this project, Azerbaijan and China had very close trade and economic ties. I think this route will significantly expand Azerbaijani-Chinese relations in the trade and economic sphere. If this project turns into a strategically important transport route, then it will certainly meet the interests of China and contribute to the further strengthening of the Azerbaijani-Chinese relations and cooperation in many spheres," Sadikhov said.

Other Azerbaijani experts also emphasized the significance of the BTK line in regards to the inter-connectivity between European and Asian continents.

Member of Azerbaijan's parliament Tahir Rzayev told local news agency Trend that the BTK line "will shorten the distance between China and Europe, help increase passenger and cargo transportation and bring great profit to the countries."

Another lawmaker Aydin Mirzazade told local media that the opening of the BTK railway dramatically changes the situation in the region. "Cargo from China to Europe will be delivered faster, and at the same time, this project will strengthen peace and security," he said.

Deputy Executive Secretary of the New Azerbaijan Party, MP Siyavush Novruzov, said the BTK line is a project of international importance.

"I think that other countries of the post-Soviet space can join this project. This railway has an extremely important economic significance. Our country will get profit from both passenger and freight transportation. This project will also boost the tourist potential," said Novruzov.

Addressing the ceremony on Monday, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev called the opening of the BTK railway "a historic and strategic significance." He said the project would play an important role in ensuring the stability and security in the region.

In a statement, the European Union called the opening of the rail link "a major step in transport interconnections linking the European Union, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Central Asia."

The 850-km Baku-Tbilisi-Kars rail project promises to provide an economic boost to the region, increase connectivity between Europe and Asia and encourage more freight to go by rail.

Starting in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, trains will stop in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, pass through the Georgian town of Akhalkalaki and end the journey in the Turkish town of Kars before feeding into Europe beyond.

The line has the capacity to annually transport one million passengers and 6.5 million tons of freight at the initial stage. The railway's peak capacity will be 17 million tons of cargo per year.

The BTK railway will reduce the transport time of goods from China to Europe to 15 days, which is less than half of the time that it takes through sea transportation.

The initial plan was to open the railway in 2010 but it was delayed several times, mainly for financial reasons.

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