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Ilham Aliyev Interested in Kars-Akhalkalaki Railway

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  • Ilham Aliyev Interested in Kars-Akhalkalaki Railway


    31 July 2004

    Ilham Aliyev, Azeri President, was in Tbilisi on official visit on
    June 14-15. According to diplomatic sources, Aliyev carried out
    lobbing for the construction of Kars- Akhalkalaki railway. The Azeri
    and Georgian presidents said in the joint press conference that the
    Georgian and Turkish Governments are trying to find $700-800 million
    for the construction of the new railway that would join Georgia with

    Aliyev said that Azerbaijan is for the construction of the railway
    between Georgia and Turkey. He said: "That's a very important regional
    project and will serve as an important factor for cooperation, and
    Baku will participate in the realization of this project."

    Neither Saakashvili, nor Aliyev specified which way they had chosen
    for connecting Georgia and Turkey through railway. The idea of
    Kars-Akhalkalaki railroad occurred in the 90s, but that wasn't
    implemented for threereasons: the construction is very expensive,
    passes through a region that is difficult to traverse, besides
    Kars-Gyumri-Tbilisi railway that connected Georgia with Turkey was
    acting in the Soviet times.

    Last May Saakashvili paid an official visit to Turkey. In Ankara he
    announced about the decision to construct Kars-Batumi railway. This
    project is also very difficult to implement. The diplomatic source
    said in the conversationwith us that the project of constructing
    Kars-Batumi railroad was replaced by the project of Kars-Akhalkalaki
    railroad in the agenda and Baku greatly contributed to that.

    Why Baku is so interested in this very project. Akhalkalaki is a
    territory inhabited mainly by Armenians. Taking into account the
    current Armenian-Azerbaijani relations, Azerbaijan should not be
    interested in connecting with the friendly turkey though this very
    territory. According to the diplomatic source, both Baku and Tbilisi
    are greatly interested in the project, Baku indirectly and Tbilisi
    directly. Tbilisi wants to increase its influence in Akhalkalaki. The
    Georgian authorities fully control Adjaria. The same can't be said
    about Javakhk.

    Recently, Nazir Azmamedov, speaker of Azeri Transport Ministry, said
    in the interview to Echo, Baku newspaper, that Azerbaijan is extremely
    interested in the construction of Kars-Akhalkalaki railroad. "There
    are cases when Batumi port doesn't work and from this viewpoint
    Azerbaijan is interested in the construction of an additional railroad
    that will help transfer our goods tothe Turkish ports," he said.

    On August 2 Azeri Transport Minister will visit Ankara to discuss with
    the Turkish side the issue of connecting the Azeri, Georgian and
    Turkish railroads. Commenting on the July 28 publication of Azg Daily
    about using Kars-Gyumri-Tbilisi railroad, Azmamedov said that "it is
    not realistic at all" because of Turkish-Armenian relations.

    Why Aliyev is so interested in this very project. Azerbaijan can be
    connected to Turkey through it. Secondly, by joining the Azeri,
    Georgian and Turkish railroad network Armenia will appear in greater
    isolation. Besides, the opening of Kars-Gyumri railroad will be paid
    no attention after Kars-Akhalkalaki railroad is built.

    Georgia can play an important part in the issue of isolating
    Armenia. Because of this concern, official Yerevan in the
    Turkish-Armenian relations tries to get Georgia's consent in the issue
    of opening Kars-Gyumri-Tbilisi railroad. Will they be a success or
    not the time will show. It's clear that the Armenian authorities try
    to improve the Armenian-Turkish relations with the help of Georgia as

    Mikhail Saakashvili promised during the meeting with RA Prime Minister
    to discuss the issue of Kars-Gyumri-Tbilisi railroad during his
    meeting with the Turkish authorities in August. Turkish Prime Minister
    Erdoghan is to arrivein Tbilisi on August 11.

    It's worth mentioning that from merely economic viewpoint the
    improvement of the Armenian-Turkish relations, particularly, opening
    of the Armenian-Turkish border-gate and utilization of Kars-Gyumri
    railroad are not in the interestof Georgia, as Armenia transfers its
    goods through Georgia mainly. Opening of the Armenian-Turkish border
    means that the Georgian state budget will be deprived of the sums
    accumulated from the Armenian goods' transportation.

    By Tatoul Hakobian