Speech by the Prime Minister of Georgia at the Official Opening Ceremony of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway Print Version

2017-10-30

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Your Excellency, President Aliyev,
Your Excellency, President Erdogan,
Your Excellency, Prime Minister Sagintayev,
Your Excellency, Prime Minister Aripov,
Esteemed members of the Governments of Turkmenistan and Tajikistan,
Greetings!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Guests,

First of all, allow me to greet you and express my immense gratitude for organizing this festive ceremony.
Our gathering today is dedicated to an event of great importance to our countries and the region as a whole. Today, we are officially launching the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway, which is the best illustration of the successful implementation of joint strategic projects.

I would like to thank President Aliyev for organizing this event at the highest level and for inviting the leaders of the partner countries as a clear demonstration of our shared views and interests. I avail myself of the opportunity to wish our friends, the Turkish people, a Happy Republic Day.

The fact that the Prime Ministers of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and government officials from Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, are attending this event together with Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia, is indicative of the special importance of this project, adds value to it, and increases its strategic significance.

Today, as the region and the world face numerous challenges and threats, it comes as no surprise that so much attention is paid to our project, which is designed to step up the development of our countries, cement and expand their economic and trade ties, which makes it a highly stability-oriented endeavor.

The geostrategic location of our countries gives us unique possibility to serve as a bridge connecting Europe and Asia, which is why I am convinced that the new railway will drastically change the current economic reality and will put in place brand new conditions for development both in the region and beyond.

It can be stated without exaggeration that today the foundation for a new Eurasian bridge is being ensured which will connect both, our economies and our citizens and further better their well-being. Once fully commissioned, the new railway route will foster unlocking our countries' transit and logistics potential and further strengthening the region's transport and trade status. Notably, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway, along with freight transport, will serve one million passengers every year.

The launch of the new railway line will bring about the development of complementary infrastructure, simplifying the process tapping into new markets and promoting the development of the tourism and processing industries, and creating new jobs, all of which is a precondition to our region's sustainable economic development and progress.

We welcome the significant progress achieved by our nations in the last few years. I would like to emphasize that the advancement of one of our countries ensures the development, stability, and security of the others. Today, we not only bring together our economies and trade potential but also connect one another to the world's largest markets, especially since rapidly developing markets and overproduction, including joint production, require additional channels of communication and transport.

In terms of encouraging international shipping and deepening trade and economic relations, our country ascribed great importance to the implementation of new transport infrastructure projects, the modernization of existing ones and ensuring their effective operation.

Along with building and modernizing railroads, we are, of course, developing port infrastructure and are investing heavily in road infrastructure involving the construction of a four-lane highway along the Georgian sections of transit corridors. We want Georgia to make its contribution to the cause of reviving the Silk Road and implementing the One Road-One Belt initiative.

The success of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway largely draws on our expanding trade and economic relations with China. We are glad that this route is marked as the Middle Corridor on the China-EU trade and transport map, the term having been coined by President Erdogan in his recent speech at the Silk Road Summit in China.

Today, it takes a freight train eight days to deliver goods from China to Georgia via Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. I avail myself of the opportunity to thank President Nazarbayev for his personal consideration and attention paid to this route throughout its development. We hope that the positive spillover effect of One Road-One Belt will cover other Central Asian countries as well. Today, there is a possibility of the train continuing its path toward Turkey. We want Georgia and our region maximally to integrate into the EU's Trans-European Transport Network via this route.

I am convinced that the new Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway will play a significant role to this end.

As you know, on November 28-29, 2017 Tbilisi will host the high-level Belt and Road International Forum, marking the second time when it brings together representatives of governmental and private sectors from more than forty countries. Such a large-scale meeting will enable us to reaffirm the importance of said corridor and, of course, that of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway, which makes the engagement of the countries present here so invaluable.

Once again, I would like to thank President Aliyev for organizing today's event. I am also grateful to our friends, the leaders of our partner countries, government officials, and everyone whose tireless work of many years has made possible the successful finalization of this complex project.

Most importantly, the unity of the countries present here is demonstrated through this project. I am convinced that similar projects and, most importantly, our solidarity will further deepen our ties to benefit our countries and our region.

Once again, thank you.

Thank you for your time.

Please accept my sincere wishes for success.