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The founding ceremony of the Turkish section of the railway was held in Kars on 24 July with the Presidents of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia being in attendance.

Presidents of Turkey and Azerbaijan Abdullah Gul and Ilham Aliyev highly appreciate the realization of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project. The two Presidents met in Kars on 24 July morning prior to the founding ceremony of the Turkish section of Baku-Tbilis-Kars railway.

Ilham Aliyev described the realization of this project as a historical event which will contribute t prosperity of the region and perspectives of transportation of cargo from Asia to Europe.

According to Gul, railway will revive the historical Silk Way and will enable to transport cargo from China to Europe. The project will make a significant contribution to the economic development of the region, improvement of living standards of the people and it will further strengthen the cooperation among Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey, Gul said.

The Baku- Tbilisi-Akhalkalaki- Kars railway project includes the construction of 105km-railway lines, with 76 km section running via Turkey and 29 km section via Georgia. Moreover, 183 km section of Akhalkalaki-Marabda-Tbilisi railway will be also reconstructed to improve the carrying capacity to 15mln tons of cargo per year. It is planned to build in Akhalkalaki a facility for the transition of trains from the track existing in Georgia to the European one. The project is estimated at $422mln and including the accompanying infrastructure its cost will comprise $600mln. This transport corridor will be commissioned by 2011.

The passenger transportation by railway is expected to comprise 1 million people and freight flow - about 6.5mln tons in the early years.The passenger transportation is expected to make up 3 million people and freight flow - 18mln tons in this second and important stage. This project will serve as a cultural corridor between Asia and Europe and will contribute to the international dialogue.

Azerbaijani President is confident that the level of cooperation among Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan is unique worldwide. "Similar trilateral cooperation in political, economic and cultural fields perhaps cannot be found in the world. It is unique," President Ilham Aliyev said in Kars at the ceremony of foundation of the Turkish section of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway on 24 July.

President Aliyev said largest regional projects being implemented among the three countries, such as Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipe, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum (BTE) gas pipe and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway, are of special importance for the region and for the world. He said oil pumping via BTC will total 40mln tons this year and over 50mln tons next year. The role of energy security in the world makes its clear how important BTE and BTC projects are, the President said.

"According to estimates, Azerbaijan's gas reserves comprise 2trln cu m, which will enable gas supply to Azerbaijan and its friendly and fraternal countries for many years to come," Aliyev said.

"Realizing the significance of those regional projects, the number of countries willing to join them is ascending. And that enables the countries of the region to receive both economic and political dividends," said President.

Aliyev said the corridor connecting Asia to Europe via Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey is the most efficient and the shortest.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili thinks Azerbaijan's support to his country as a guarantee to Georgia's independence. "Azerbaijan is a guarantor of Georgia's independence," Saakashvili said in Kars at the ceremony of foundation of the Turkish section of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway on 24 July.

Saakashvili said Azerbaijan had always supported Georgia in its difficult times, mentioning Azerbaijan's gas supply to Georgia during an energy crisis in winter of 2005. "Georgian people will never forget that," said Saakashvili, adding that Azerbaijan-Georgia cooperation improves the two nations' welfare.

According to Saakashvili, owing to the political will of Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan, all obstacles have been overcome and the sides are carrying out successful regional cooperation. Saakashvili particularly mentioned the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum (BTE) gas pipeline among the most considerable aspects of cooperation. "The Baku - Tbilisi- Kars railway project is of special significance, he said. This is the continuation of our successful cooperation."

The project unites not only Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, but also countries of Asia, ranging from China to the European counties. This project is of great economic importance both for region and people of countries which participate in the project. Despite of all suspicions of 'some countries' with respect to expediency of the BTK, several Asian countries, including Kazakhstan, are also interested in the project.

This project will be successful, because all three countries put many efforts and the issues will be solved ahead of time. The project unites not only two countries of the Caucasus, but also the entire Caucasus region, testifying for independence of the three countries.

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