On October 30, 2017, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, along with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Georgia’s Prime-minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev, and Uzbekistan’s Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov attended the opening ceremony of the long-delayed Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway. “The opening of the railway is of historic and strategic significance,” Aliyev said at the ceremony in the Caspian port city of Alat, south of Baku, to mark the departure of the first trains. In fact, the opening of the new railway provides an alternative route to existing rail services carrying goods from Asia to Europe.
BACKGROUND: The BTK railway, totaling 826 kilometers in length, is intended to complete a transport corridor linking Azerbaijan to Turkey (and thereby linking Central Asia and China to Europe) by rail. The railway is constructed on the basis of a Georgian-Azerbaijani-Turkish intergovernmental agreement. At the initial stage, it will have a capacity of one million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo per year, projected to reach 17 million tons of cargo per year by 2023. Starting in Baku, the trains will stop in Tbilisi, pass through gauge-changing facilities in Akhalkalaki, and terminate in north-east Turkey. Oxumağa davam et Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway to Become Central Asia’s Gateway to Europe→
Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey signed a new agreement dedicated to launching the Lapis Lazuli transit corridor during a pentalateral meeting at the seventh Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA), held on November 15, in Ashgabat (Azernews, November 15). The finalized document was the product of three years of negotiations among the five governments. The trans-regional corridor will encompass mainly railways and highways, which will connect Herat province (Afghanistan) and Turkmenbashi port (Turkmenistan) via Ashgabat. From Turkmenbashi, goods will be able to travel further by ferry to Baku, where they would be placed on train cars and continue westward to Europe across the South Caucasus via the newly launched Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railroad (see EDM, October 16, November 17). Oxumağa davam et Lapis Lazuli: A New Transit Corridor to Link Asia and Europe via the South Caucasus→
On September 27, the head of Azerbaijani Railways Company, Javid Gurbanov, along with his Georgian and Turkish counterparts, Mamuka Bakhtadze and Ahmad Arslan, respectively, attended the first test run by a passenger train along a section of the Baku–Tbilisi–Kars (BTK) railway, from the Georgian capital to Akhalkalaki (in the country’s southwest). After the test train reached the final destination, Gurbanov declared that the BTK railroad is likely ready to begin regular operation (AzVision, September 27). Hence, the minister of foreign affairs of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov, during a joint press conference with Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze, in Tbilisi, stated that the official opening ceremony of the BTK will be held on October 30 of this year (Apsny.ge, October 10).
The 826-kilometer-long Baku–Tbilisi–Kars railway connects Azerbaijan to Turkey via Georgia (and by extension forms an important link in the trans-continental transport corridor connecting Central Asia and China to Europe). The BTK railroad is being constructed on the basis of a 2007 Georgian-Azerbaijani-Turkish intergovernmental agreement. In its initial stage, the railway will carry 1 million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo per year. However, by 2023, its peak capacity will grow to 17 million tons of cargo annually (The Asian, October 18, 2016). Beginning in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, trains traveling along the BTK will stop in Tbilisi, pass through gauge-changing facilities in Akhalkalaki, and terminate in northeastern Turkey. Oxumağa davam et Will the Baku–Tbilisi–Kars Railway Become Uzbekistan’s New Connection to Europe?→
Baku hosted the first joint gathering of the heads of the railway administrations of Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine and Poland, on June 19. The meeting was dedicated to the newly-launched “South-West Transport Corridor,” which links into the broader Trans-Caspian International Route project launched in 2016. The event concluded with the signing of a new joint protocol that envisages expanding cooperation opportunities along the so-called “South-West” route (Iran–Azerbaijan–Georgia–by ferry across the Black Sea–Ukraine–Poland) in order to optimize cargo transportation and increase transit capacity. Reportedly, the next joint meeting of the working group will be held in Odesa in September 2017 (Trend, June 19).
Abstract. This paper examines the European Union’s geopolitical interests in the South Caucasus, with a specific focus on Azerbaijan. The EU has maintained a relationship with the region for over two decades, but often the EU’s approach towards the South Caucasus have been deeply affected by local and regional developments. Nevertheless, EU – Azerbaijan bilateral relations may offer an alternative. Azerbaijan plays a key role in European energy security, while the EU is seeking to create a “European space” in the South Caucasus. These two interrelated developments are mutually reinforcing. This paper examines how this relationship shapes and/or is influenced by the EU’s geopolitical strategic vision in the region.
The Georgian coastal city of Batumi hosted, on May 23, a trilateral meeting of the defense ministers of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia (Azertac, May 23). This trilateral cooperation format was inaugurated in 2012, during a ministerial meeting in Trabzon, Turkey. As expected, a new military memorandum was signed during the Batumi meeting: the three sides pledged to boost military ties as well as increase cooperation in the fields of military education and military medicine, counterterrorism (including the protection of pipelines and railways), and joint large-scale military exercises (APA, May 23). “Our cooperation in the field of defense contributes to strengthening security, peace and economic development,” Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov told reporters in Batumi (Azertac, May 23). Oxumağa davam et Azerbaijan-Turkey-Georgia: A Geopolitical Axis or an Accidental Alliance?→
The regional economic integration within the globalized world has been recognized as an important driver for economic growth and job creation. Hence, free trade is one of the essential points for future regional economic development that would lead to a more productive and competitive economic structure. In this respect, the Eurasian Economic Union, which came into force in 2015, aims to establish a single regional market with the elimination of all customs barriers between its Member States. Even though a number of Post-Soviet countries have already become members of the EEU, Azerbaijan has managed to maintain its neutral position in this regard. Oxumağa davam et Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Eurasian Economic Union: A Risky Game or an Opportunity?→