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Full Steam Ahead: Long-Awaited Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway Opens

Turkish officials inspect construction works on the Turkish section of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway in mid-2017. The railway officially opened on October 30. (Photo: Turkey’s Ministry of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications)

The launch of a new railway in the South Caucasus has the potential to attract foreign investment and boost trade, as well as encourage political cooperation in a region fraught with conflict. But can the railway deliver as envisioned?
 
After years of delays, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway officially opened October 30, connecting the Caspian Basin to eastern Turkey, with onward access to the European rail system.
 
The heads of state of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia, along with the prime ministers of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, attended opening ceremonies held outside of Baku, at the route’s eastern terminus. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said the railway’s completion was the result of the “brotherhood” of the three countries. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan described the BTK as a “new Silk Road venture initiated to connect Asia, Europe and Africa.”
 

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Bradley Jardine is a journalist based in Moscow covering the post-Soviet region and China.

Full Steam Ahead: Long-Awaited Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway Opens

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