- Dear ladies and gentlemen,
My warm greetings to all of you! I sincerely congratulate you on the opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. Guests from fraternal and friendly countries are attending this official ceremony. I would like to specifically welcome the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Prime Ministers of Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, the Ministers of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, and express my deep gratitude for participating in this ceremony.
Dear guests, your participation in today's ceremony once again demonstrates the importance of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. Baku-Tbilisi-Kars is a historic project, a project of strategic importance. The length of this road is 850 kilometers, of which 504 kilometers lie on the territory of Azerbaijan. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is the shortest and most reliable route connecting Europe with Asia. At the initial stage, this road is to transport 5 million tons, at the next stage another 17 million tons of cargo, and then even more. In a word, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is becoming an important part of the Eurasian transport map. Thanks to this road, the trade and mutual investment between the countries involved will increase. The cooperation among all the countries using this road will deepen further. This road will serve stability and security. I am convinced that this road will also trigger the development of tourism and the number of tourists will increase. Of course, the successful operation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway will enhance the geopolitical significance of our countries and create additional opportunities for us.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is of great importance for the development of business and mutually beneficial cooperation. The agreement on the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway was signed in Georgia. Then a groundbreaking ceremony took place in Turkey and finally we are celebrating the opening of this railway in Alat, in Azerbaijan, today. The construction of this railway is the result of friendship and brotherhood between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. The three countries successfully cooperate in all spheres, support each other, implement projects important for our countries, peoples and the whole world. Baku-Tbilisi-Kars is a project that has taken a rightful place among these projects.
Before that, we celebrated the opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which is of great historic importance. I remember the ceremony in Ceyhan. In 2006, we opened this pipeline together with my dear brother President Erdogan. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline is a major infrastructure project linking the Caspian and Mediterranean seas. Today it transports oil from the eastern part of the Caspian. So our countries have also provided transit opportunities to other states. A year later, in 2007, also thanks to the cooperation between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipeline was built. This project also provides energy security for Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, and has been successfully operating for 10 years. In addition, three countries have joined their power lines. Cooperation in this area is also developing successfully. Of course, the Southern Gas Corridor, one of the largest infrastructure projects of Europe on a global scale, is also being created precisely thanks to the joint efforts of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and other countries. The implementation of this project is well under way. As you know, the Southern Gas Corridor consists of four parts. The Shah Deniz-2 project is 98 per cent through. The South Caucasus Pipeline is a gas line connecting Azerbaijan with Georgia. The level of implementation there is 99 per cent. The implementation of the TANAP project, the key part of the Southern Gas Corridor, is at 84 per cent. The implementation of the TAP project is close to 60 per cent. So the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway was also created on the basis of previously implemented projects. Of course, if we had not implemented such giant and large-scale projects in the energy, oil and gas spheres in previous periods, we could only talk about Baku-Tbilisi-Kars today.
I should also note that many, especially some outside circles, did not believe in the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. They believed that it was impossible to realize it and that there is no technical capacity and financial resources for its implementation. But the three countries involved have shown and proved that it is possible. Where there is strong will, mutual support and confidence in each other, anything can be done. The construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is a vivid example of that. I am sure that the countries making the biggest contribution to regional cooperation – Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey – will always be together and support each other. Such giant projects as the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway further strengthen our unity and friendship.
Countries of Central Asia, including Kazakhstan, are showing great interest in this railway project. This is clearly illustrated by the participation of delegations and high-ranking officials from these countries at this ceremony. We are sure that there will be additional opportunities in cargo transportation, and our traditional friendship with countries of Central Asia will strengthen further thanks to this railway. This railway is of great importance for Europe. Azerbaijan has already held talks with several European countries. European states are also very interested in this railway.
I should also note that Azerbaijan is also taking important steps towards creating the North-South transport corridor. All work related to the North-South project on the territory of Azerbaijan have been completed. So the entire infrastructure is ready. At the same time, Azerbaijan offers its technical and financial capabilities in the creation of infrastructure in other countries. At present, we are working to integrate the North-South and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars transport corridors, and I think that it is possible. I am sure that the North-West and South-West transport routes will be put into operation in the future. These two giant projects will link many large countries.
Baku-Tbilisi-Kars means a restoration of a part of the historic Silk Road. This will benefit China, Kazakhstan, Central Asia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and European countries. The North-South transport corridor will connect India, Pakistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia and European countries. Azerbaijan is an active participant in both projects and offers its financial resources.
In general, I can say that Azerbaijan attaches great importance to the transport sector. Large investments are made in this sphere in Azerbaijan. Since 2004 to the present, 11,000 kilometers of highways have been built in Azerbaijan. Six international airports have been commissioned. Today Azerbaijan has a large fleet of cargo planes. There are about 20 large cargo planes operating in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan possesses the largest naval fleet on the Caspian Sea – a fleet of 270 vessels. We play a special role in the organization of cargo transportation in the Caspian. Several years ago, a large shipyard was built in Azerbaijan. It produces vessels of all types. Given the expected increase in cargo transportation in the Caspian, this plant will operate to even greater capacity. Of course, an important part of our transport infrastructure is the Alat International Trade Seaport where we are gathered today. The construction of the port is proceeding successfully and it is already functioning. However, the commissioning of the first phase of the port is scheduled for the middle of next year. After that, 15 million tons of cargo and 100,000 containers will pass through this port every year. The completion of the second phase will increase the capacity of the Alat port to 25 million tons of cargo and 1 million containers. So the investment made in the transport sector in Azerbaijan in recent years has already led to the creation of strong infrastructure. This infrastructure is of great importance for our countries, for the region and for the whole world.
I want to note again that Baku-Tbilisi-Kars is a historic and global project. This project will further bring our countries closer together. It will play a role in the stability and security of our region. This project will enhance our economic opportunities and we will receive large funds. Of course, I want to say again that the realization of this project has been possible only thanks to the joint efforts of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. We did not receive any outside help or loans, built this railway using our own capabilities and are putting it into operation together.
Dear friends, I want to once again congratulate you on this wonderful historic event. I am sure that the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars road will always be open. Thank you.