Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway line is a regional railway link that will directly connect Kars in Turkey, Tbilisi in Georgia and Baku in Azerbaijan. The total estimated cost of the project is $600m ($422m excluding infrastructure costs).
The key objective of the project is to improve trade and economic relations between the three regions, as well as gaining foreign direct investment by connecting Europe and Asia. The project will facilitate transportation of passengers and goods, principally oil.
The project was originally scheduled for completion in 2010 but has been delayed. As of October 2012, nearly 92% of the work on the railway line in Turkey has been completed.
The first test train from Azerbaijan to Turkey is expected to be launched by the end of 2012. The railway line is expected to be fully commissioned by 2013.
BTK railway line origins and controversy
The presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey signed the declaration on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway connection on 25 May 2005. The key reason for the agreement was the rejection of assistance by the EU and the US as this link was bypassing Armenia.
The construction of the BTK railway line was inaugurated by the presidents of the three regions at Marabda, South Georgia on 21 November 2007. However, on 8 August 2009, construction activities of the BTK railway line were suspended due to the Georgian-Ossetian conflict and environmental problems.
The project has proved somewhat controversial. In August 2008, Ara Papyan, the former Armenian Ambassador to Canada, stated in a seminar that the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway line was illegal under international law. In addition, he stated that the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline passes through historic Armenian territory which was not legal. Finally, Ara Papyan opined that both these projects were illegal and subject to Armenia