Leaders of Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan launched a railway project between the three countries on Thursday, building on links already forged by gas and oil pipelines.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Thursday laid the foundation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway's (BTK) part on Turkish soil.
The three presidents expressed hope in their speeches that the BTK railway would contribute to peace and prosperity in the region.
President Gul said the BTK railway project would revive the ancient "Silk Road" and added that it was open to all countries in the Caucasus that wanted good neighbourly relations.
Gul said an unnamed economic area emerged in the Caucasus paralleling the good relations between Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia and pointed out that this area would further enliven in the future.
Saakashvili said BTK was not just a railway project but had economic, cultural, historical connotations. He said it contributed to relations between Turkey and Georgia and expressed firm belief that the project would bring closer the three nations.
Also speaking during the ceremony, Aliyev said the railway would strengthen the economic relations between the three countries adding that Asian and European countries would also benefit from the project.
The three presidents and Turkish Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim delivered speeches at the ceremony held in the eastern province of Kars.
Yildirim said on Thursday that when BTK railway project was completed, one million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo would be carried in the first year.
Speaking at a ceremony to lay down the foundation for Turkey leg of the BTK railway in eastern province of Kars, Yildirim reminded that groundbreaking ceremony of Georgia leg of the project was held on November 21st, 2007.
Yildirim said that the Turkey part of the BTK railway would be 76 kilometers in length, and it would be completed by 2011. He said that in medium-term, three million passengers and 18 million tons of cargo would be carried through BTK railway.
He stressed that Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey were implementing important projects together like Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars projects.
The foundation of Georgia section of the railway called the Iron Silk Road was laid in a region outside capital Tbilisi on November 21st, 2007 with participation of Gul, Aliyev and Saakashvili.
The project will enable uninterrupted railway link with the Central Asian republics, which are the new oil and natural gas center in the world. Thus, a train that will set off from London can reach China without any interruption.