Details added (first version posted on 14:07)
Baku, Azerbaijan, Oct.22
By Emil Ismayilov - Trend:
The issue of Armenia's joining the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway (BTK) can be considered only after the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the head of Azerbaijan Railways Arif Asgarov told reporters Oct.22.
He said that all interested parties can join the BTK project at this stage, with the exception of Armenia. Kazakhstan and Afghanistan have already expressed their willingness to join the project.
The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan.
As a result of the ensuing war, in 1992 Armenian armed forces occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts.
The two countries signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Russia, France and the U.S. are currently holding peace negotiations.
Armenia has not yet implemented four U.N. Security Council resolutions on the liberation of the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is being constructed on the basis of the Georgian-Azerbaijani-Turkish intergovernmental agreement.
The State Oil Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SOFAZ) finances the project in accordance with the Azerbaijani president's decree 'On the implementation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project activities' dated February 21, 2007.
A new 105-kilometer branch of the railroad is being constructed as part of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project. In addition, the railway's Akhalkalaki-Marabda-Tbilisi section is under reconstruction in Georgia, which will increase its capacity to 15 million metric tons of cargo per year. A post is under construction in Akhalkalaki for the transition of trains from the existing tracks in Georgia to the European ones.
The project is planned to be completed in 2015, and it is scheduled to launch the first test work train in late 2014.
The peak capacity of the corridor will be 17 million metric tons of cargo per year. At the initial stage, this figure will be one million passengers and 6.5 million metric tons of cargo.