Turkish President Erdogan, Azerbaijani President Aliyev, Georgian Premier Kvirikashvili attend project launch in Baku
The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway project -- connecting Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia – is a crucial step for the future, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.
"The most important leg of the Middle Corridor Project [to unite Europe and Asia via Anatolia] is fulfilled with the first service of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway," Erdogan said during an inauguration ceremony in Baku along with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev and Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C) and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilhami Aliyev (R) are seen during opening ceremony of Baku-Tblisi-Kars railway in Baku.
Leaders pose for a photo as they attend the opening ceremony of the first official train service of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway project in Baku, Azerbaijan on October 30, 2017.
The 826-kilometer (513-mile) railway project connecting Baku with Turkey's northeastern Kars province via Tbilisi was launched in 2007 and construction began in 2008.
Erdogan said the project was "priceless" since it was "laboriously and devotedly" carried out. "So, we declare the establishment of continuous railway link from London to China," he added.
The Turkish leader said the railway would serve a million passengers a year and had 6.5 million tons of freight capacity.
Erdogan said this capacity would rise to three million passengers and 17 million tons of freight by 2034.
"Of course, this will substantially reduce the cost of freight," he added.
Erdogan said the railway's contribution to the region would not just be economic: "The project will politically bring peace, security and stability and, socially, it will bring welfare."
Ilham Aliyev said the railway project was the result of the "brotherhood" of the three countries involved.
He said some believed it was "impossible" for the project to be realized "but, the three countries showed and proved that it is possible".
"Baku-Tbilisi-Kars is a historic, global project. This project will make [our] countries closer," he said.
Kvirikashvili said the project was a bridge between Asia and Europe. “This line will both tie economies and people together,” he added.